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MOTHERS MOTHERS ARMS ARMS

ISSUE ONE: MAASAI

loodariak, kenya


I HAVE CHOSEN TO DO THIS BECAUSE I AM LIMITED IN MY AVAILABLE JOB OPTIONS. OPTIONS?


EVEN WHEN UNDER THESE LIMITATIONS, YOU CAN STILL DO IT.


MAASAI LOCATION BORDER OF TANZANIA AND KENYA, AFRICA

SOCIAL STRUCTURE PATRIARCHY, POLYGAMOUS

CRAFT BEADWORK, WIRE AND LEATHER The Maasai are one of Africa’s bestknown tribes. A nomadic group, Maasai villages traditionally travelled throughout the Maasai Mara area, herding cattle and gathering food to survive. A polygamous tradition means that a Maasai man will typically have two or more wives who will look after the households, which the women construct for their husbands, and rear his children.


A VERY LONG TIME AGO WE ADAPTED FROM OUR MOTHERS.


THEY WOULD USE AN ANIMAL SKIN AND BEAD IT ALL TO WEAR AS ONE CLOTH.


AS


ONE The constant work of a Maasai woman sometimes becomes more manageable when there are multiple wives. It’s common for Maasai husbands to take several wives, with more wives indicating he has more wealth in order to take care of them. While this can lead to issues with favouritism and infighting, many first wives welcome additional ones as another person to assist with the care of the household. Women will often work together in order to complete tasks quicker, giving them more time to create more beadwork and increase their business.


A Maasai woman learns beadwork from her mother, who begins to teach her daughter(s) at a young age. Beads are an expensive industry, so each plastic piece is accounted for and treasured. Women will gather under a tree atop a tanned cow skin and do beadwork in the rare spare time they have in a day. Considering a day’s work includes fetching water, cleaning the house, milking the cows, cooking all the meals, getting the children ready for the day, taking care of her husband, doing the laundry, and any other duties unique to the family, beadwork is produced only at the pace that life allows it.


THE DAY YOU GET MARRIED, THE MOTHER MAKES EVERYTHING


When a woman is married, her mother makes the large white bead items for her ceremony. Only worn once in a woman’s lifetime, a large circular collar (often called an ‘ox’ in Maa for the relative cost of all the materials), featuring long strands of beads ending in cowry shells, will be worn by the bride for the wedding ceremony. This is one of several ceremonial pieces a mother will make for her daughter throughout her lifetime. The pride connected with beadwork shows through every Maasai women, whom regardless of station will wear her best pieces everyday. Some women have developed their skills into small businesses, mainly driven by visiting tourist markets, selling jewelry and accessories to guests and Maasai alike.

AND TEACHES HER DAUGHTER.


I DO BEADWORK TO HELP HELP,MY KIDS BY EARNING MONEY TO PAY FOR THEIR EDUCATION,


TO HELP HELP,MY RELATIVES, AND TO HELP HELP. MYSELF SO I DON’T NEED TO RELY ON MY HUSBAND.


TO HELP


As a woman in the Maasai community, there are very few options open to you. Girls are less likely to make it through high school, or even elementary school, then boys due to greater responsibilities in the home, higher rates of arranged marriages, and little sexual education. Many girls are taken out of school in order to be married and start a family, as the long-term benefits of education have yet to be widely felt in the community over the benefits of marriage.


For those unable to reach higher education and the professions it allows, beadwork is one of the limited options women have available to them to gain economic independence. This independence is sought after, as it allows women to provide financially for their families and themselves without having to rely on their husband’s beliefs of what is most the most important expenditures. As well, it is one of the few practices that can be completed within the limited amounts of spare time a Maasai woman has in her day regardless of if that time comes at day or night. Working on beadwork can also be a social occasion, as it allows women to gather and work together while talking and discussing issues affecting their lives.


These rare moments of craftwork with other women can be a day’s highlight, and some villages have now begun to form groups that allow women from nearby areas to come together to work and sell as a co-operative. This also allows them a larger economic pool to draw from as a group. The co-op’s finances are generally used to assist families unable to pay their children’s school fees or to help in times of famine and drought. Maasai women have no traditional claim to money or land, with all material income and goods belonging to their husbands, so cooperatives allow them to partner together to stake out their own economic security and power within their villages.


ALL WOMEN HAVE TO DIFFERENTIATE THEMSELVES FROM OTHER CULTURES.


WE ALSO WEAR NICE PIECES OF BEADWORK IN HOPES OF H SELLING SELL. THEM.


WE WEAR WEARE BEADWORK TO SHOW OUR CULTURE


AND TO FEEL BEAUTIFUL, AND TO SHOW WE LOVE OURSELVES.


WE MAA


ARE ASAI


THANK YOU

SupaMaasai Foundation Teriano Lesancha Maria Kayao Mary Saidimu Theresa Kolel Theresa Solio Teresia Elijah Jane Matura All images taken by Kiersten Hay and George Phu


WHO DO YOU THINK WE ARE?

Mothers Arms represents the women across space and time who practice the creative heritage that was passed down to them in order to carve out the world they want to live in. We take no sh*t and support our sisters whomever and wherever they may be. We are the engines in the night, and we’re here to make our names known and our roar heard to fight against the injustices forced upon our sisters and those who belittle the strength that comes from doing women’s work.


Mothers Arms: Maasai  

The interior of the first issue of the Mothers Arms experimental art direction for a charity supporting indigenous craftswomen. This issue f...

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