Artist Profiles

Artist:

Beads of Esiteti – Various Artists

Region:

Africa

Country:

Kenya

Media/General:

Jewelry - nonmetal, Textiles

Medium of Work:

Maasai beaded jewelry, traditional shawls and dresses

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2012, 2013, 2018

About:

Extending on centuries of tradition, jewelry made by the Maasai women of Beads of Esiteti incorporates bright, colorful seed beads, locally purchased from Nairobi and arranged into any number of intricately designed, eye catching combinations.

Using earth-friendly practices, the 275 artisans—all female—of the Esiteti artisan collective use recycled string, which comes from discarded rice and flower bags. Recycled water jugs are cut and used as boning for many of their bracelets and necklaces. All items sold by Beads of Esiteti are handmade by the Maasai women of Esiteti, Kenya, who formed a cooperative group and each contribute jewelry as a means of creating a sustainable income stream for themselves, their families and their local Esiteti Primary School. No machines are used in any part of the jewelry-making process.

Maasai people have been beading since the beginning of their time, and what some might consider an artform or even a handicraft actually plays a large role in representing the Maasai culture and heritage. Originally the Maasai people used natural materials such a bones, wood, and rocks to make beads and adorn themselves. With the coming of Europeans to Africa came the trading of Czech seed beads among tribal communities, which is how the Maasai people originally started using the vibrantly colored seed beads we now associate with them. Each color bead represents a different aspect of the Maasai culture in regard to their pastoral lifestyle and their devotion to their livestock. From cuff-like bracelets featuring allover beaded patterning to thick, long necklaces covered with vivid seed beads in striking color combinations, the Beads of Esititi art collective truly offers something one-of-a-kind for everyone.