From Head to Toe: Adorning the Maasai Jewellery

Step into the world of the Maasai tribe in Arusha, Tanzania.

A young woman wearing traditional Maasai jewellery (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL

For the Maasai in Arusha, Tanzania, each colour of the bead and pattern represents symbolism that is deeply rooted in their culture. The same is reflected in the type of jewellery they wear, the occasions when they don it, and the age-set they represent.  

A young Maasai man (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL


The Maasai necklaces can vary from a simple strand to heavy collars. Both men and women are seen wearing them.  

Maasai Collars (2020) by Sidai DesignsProject FUEL

Maasai women wear collars on a more regular basis for dancing. These collars are generally large in diameter, without the attached square or the dowry strings. A woman may wear eight or ten of them stacked up.  

Dance of the collar (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL

As the woman dances, she uses a particular motion to make the collars fly up and down.  

Koko Maria (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL

Wedding Collars

Marriage in traditional Maasai communities is always an arranged affair, with parents choosing the most appropriate partner for their son or daughter. Once the match is decided, the mother of the bride will make two items. 

A Maasai bride (2020) by Sidai DesignsProject FUEL

The first is a necklace of beaded strings that indicates the woman is engaged. Both men and women wear beaded-string necklaces as everyday decoration, but the engagement necklace is distinctive because the strings are intertwined.

The colours of Maasai beadwork (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL

The second item her mother will make is a wedding collar. This is a large, flat, leather circle about 12 inches across, covered in brightly colored geometric shapes formed from beads.  

Maasai Bridal necklace (2020) by Eliza PowellProject FUEL

There is also a square section protruding from the front of the disk, with a number of long beaded strings hanging from it. The strings have cowry shells attached to the bottom. Every part of the collar represents some aspect of the bride’s community. 

Koko Sadera (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL


The Maasai stretch their earlobes using stone, wood, and bones. They usually wear beaded earrings on the stretched earlobe and smaller piercings on the top of the ear.   

Koko Sadera (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL

Traditionally, both men and women stretched their earlobes, because long, stretched lobes were seen as a symbol of wisdom and respect. This tradition, however is slowly disappearing from the tribe.  

Strong hold, stronger force (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL

Wrist and Arm Bands

Wrist and arm bands are worn by both men and women. Earlier young Maasai warriors used to wear an armband, known as the errap, made of leather and metal wire coils. Today they are mostly made of glass beads.  

Maasai Copper Bangles (2020) by Sam VoxProject FUEL

Bangles made of copper.

Maasai Anklets (2020) by Eliza PowellProject FUEL

Beadwork Anklets

Colourful beads adorn the ankles of both men and women.

Maasai Footwear (2020) by Sidai DesignsProject FUEL

Their footwear are sometimes decorated with beadwork. The shoes are made from recycled car tyres.  

Maasai Head piece (2020) by Sidai DesignsProject FUEL


As part of their ceremonial wear, the Maasai women also adorn headdress, made primarily of glass beads. It is sometimes decorated with silver embellishments.  

Credits: Story

Project FUEL would like to thank Sidai Designs for creating this exhibit and the Maasai community in Monduli, Arusha for opening their hearts and home for this research.

Images and Products by Sidai Designs

Sidai Designs works in collaboration with a number of Maasai women to create handmade, contemporary jewellery and accessories. Derived from the Kimaasai word, ‘Sidai’, means ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’. Their mission is to preserve age-old African beading tradition, work to create sustainable jobs and economic opportunities for Maasai women, and produce unique pieces that blend beading customs with a contemporary aesthetic. They are based in Arusha, Tanzania.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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