Africa will get under your skin - like a love affair - and not let you go. It happened to me 30 years ago, when I spent a month at the foot of Mount Kenya, following cinnamon colored paths to open-air markets, camping in the wild as thundering wildebeest migrated past under the rising moon, and accompanying leprosy patients to the city to get their disappearing feet fitted for shoes. Years later, a proposal came to me after climbing the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro for nine days, and I said Yes to the marriage that is still today an adventure in love. Africa is a heartbeat, a drumbeat, a pulsation to which I will always dance.
The weavers in Africa, for the most part, are men, working on long looms to make narrow strips which the women sew together and dye. Which means I’ve had to look longer and harder to find artisan cooperatives of women in charge, bettering their lives.
What I found is amazing jewelry.
In Arusha, Tanzania, Maasai women come together to bead jewelry, collaborating with an impressive new group called Sidai Designs. Their aim is true ibu: preserving Maasai traditions, empowering women and their villages, up-cycling materials such as metal bullets into beads and flour bags into stringing material. And, they really believe in the joy of art and creativity. I’m completely on board.
I know that every woman doesn’t want to wear the layers of heavy beads that I sport, so I was thrilled to find some summery, light-weight beaded necklaces and earrings that carry a lot of punch for their slender silhouette. And some wide cuffs for those who still want, well, BOLD.
tutawanana tena! (see you again soon in Maa, the tribal language of the Maasai)