August 8, 2008
The Maasai are an indigenous African ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Due to their distinctive customs and dress and residence near the many game parks of East Africa, they are among the most well-known African ethnic groups internationally. They speak Maa, which is a part of the Nilo-Saharan language family — similar languages include Dinka, Nuer, Turkana — and Songhai, and are also educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania: Swahili and English.
Beadworking, done by women, has a long history among the Maasai, who articulate their identity and position in society through body ornaments and body painting. Before contact with Europeans beads were produced mostly 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. When late in the nineteenth century, great quantities of brightly colored European glass beads arrived in East Africa, beadworkers replaced the older beads with the new materials and began to use more elaborate color schemes. source