Vintage Maasai beaded collar set


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An authentic vintage Maasai / Masai beaded collar set. Up to ten of these at any one time are worn by the Maasai women and are designed to bounce rhythmically when they dance. As the woman dances, she uses a particular motion to make the collars fly up and down. These dancing collars also represent a village, with the fence line along the perimeter and divisions showing how many homesteads there are in the village. In addition there may be straight lines running radially at intervals around the ring.

This set was presented by a Maasai lady in the 1960's to a family living in Kenya at the time so we know that it is at least 50 years old. From looking closely at the beadwork, The middle sized ring predates the other two considerably as the beads are much smaller and more irregular in size and shape. One of the ends of the wire has come loose at some stage and a few beads have been lost as can be seen in the photograph although this is hardly noticeable.

The Maasai have always been known for their vibrant dress and colorful beadwork but what many people do not know is that each color bead represents a different aspect of the Maasai culture.

Red: Represents bravery, strength, unity and the incredible challenges Maasai people face each day

Blue: Symbolizes energy and sustenance and the color of the sky which provides water for the people and their cattle

Green: Symbolizes nourishment and production, representing the land that provides food for the people and their livestock while also symbolizing the putting down of roots and the protection of one’s territory

Orange: Symbolizes warmth, friendship, generosity and hospitality, representative of the color of a gourd which is used to share milk with guests and welcome visitors into one’s home

Yellow: Symbolizes fertility and growth, representing the color of the sun which helps grow the grass to feed the livestock and sustain life

White: Represents purity and health symbolizing the color of cow’s milk that provides sustained nourishment

Black: Symbolizes unity, harmony and solidarity, representing the color of the people and the daily struggles they endure each day.

The largest of the collars measures 39cm (including pendant) x 28.5cm whilst the smallest measures 24cm x 19cm. The smallest collar also has a hook and eye arrangement so that it can be put on as it is too small to fit over the head like the other two.

These make a truly stunning item and a lovely old example of Maasai tribal art and culture

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