Maasai Dressing

May 16, 2013 in The Maasai Community


colorful bead workThe Maasai dressing style and culture has made this community an international tourist attraction in East Africa.

In the olden days Maasai’s used to dress up in animal hides but with the increased westernization they have gradually adapted the modern fabrics.

Generally Masai wear mostly red sheets called shukas which they wrap around their bodies and a lot of colorful beaded jewelry placed around their necks and arms.

To accompany these shukas is simple sandals that are now soled with tire strips or plastic.

Masai dressing varies depending on age, gender, place and occasion.

A young masai man who have been circumcised wear black shukas. On the other hand a Masai warrior has his hair braided in a very complex pattern. They also wear earrings, bracelets and beaded necklaces.

In addition, a masai warrior will wear symbols to show off his achievements such as the errap made of leather with coils of metal wire in the front and the back is worn around the top part of the arm to show that this man has fought and killed another man, while the Olawaru is a lions mane headdress, meant to show that the man has killed a lion.  The enkuwaru is a headdress made of ostrich plumes, meant to show that the man has fought a lion but the lion survived. This warrior’s body is also decorated with white limestone chalk in complex non-symbolic patterns, and the hair is colored red with ochre and animal fat.

DSC_0411_2  Masai

Maasai women regularly weave and bead jewellery. Masai bead work plays an important part in the ornamentation of  their women’s body and also as an identity of their position in the society.  The colors of beads used during beading have meanings to the Masai community for example: white, peace; blue, sky, water; red, warrior/blood/bravery.

Before westernization the Maasai used to obtain beads from local raw materials. White beads were made from clay, shells, ivory, or bone. Black and blue beads were made from iron, charcoal, seeds, clay, or horn. Red beads came from seeds, woods, gourds, bone, ivory, copper, or brass. Guests staying at a camp operated by masai at Loita Hills enjoy the honor of being taught how to bead by the masai women who are their host. Mothers of warriors wear surutia, coiled metal medallions.

women with pierecd ears and large earrings   masai women

Unlike masai men, masai women shave their heads and remove two middle teeth on the lower jaw. Both men and women in the masai community pierce their ears as part of Masai beauty. The ear lobes are stretched and metal hoops worn.