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Understanding The Maasai People

sawa sawa usa

Who Are The Maasai people? 

People across the globe are fascinated by the Maasai people. The Maasai are an ethnic group found in East Africa, specifically in Kenya and Tanzania. They are known internationally for their unique customs and dress-code. They like to reside in undeveloped savannah lands where they graze their cows on virgin lands. This is why you find them near game parks and great African lakes where the land is as natural as it comes.

SawaSawa USA
Maasai Morans(warriors)

The Maasai Dress-Code

Most Maasai people wear a special combination of garments and accessories. The men wear a shuka which is a type of blanket draped over their undergarments and held together with a belt. The women wear Lesos which are a type of cape also draped over their undergarments. They accessorize these with a variety of brightly colored necklaces, earrings, bracelets, sandals, belts, and anklets made with leather, strings, and colorful beads. The main Maasai colors are mostly red and blue, but they have other colors to complement these.

Maasai Women in their beautiful beaded necklaces

Understanding The Maasai Colors

Different colors represent different special meanings in the Maasai culture. Red which is an important color represents Blood and bravery. Black is a symbol of brotherhood, unity, and identity as a people. White represents peace and purity. Blue is the color of the sky representing coolness and calmness. Yellow is the color of the sun and it represents energy, growth, and fertility. Orange is the color of warmth representing friendship and generosity. Green is the color of the earth representing home, productivity, and nourishment.

Maasai Colors

The Beadwork Has Meaning Too

Modern fashion has borrowed heavily from the Maasai beadwork. Traditionally, different ornaments mean different things. Unmarried girls for example wear flat beaded necklaces that look like enormous disks around their necks. Once they marry, they wear a long necklace with pre-dominantly blue beads. The men wear colorful necklaces with interesting pendants. When the young men graduate to Morans (warriors) they wear a special cross body necklace. Men and women also wear headbands, anklets, bracelets, and earrings to their preference. All these are hand-made with beads, wire, leather, and strings. They take pride in this art of beadwork which is passed down from generation to generation.

Maasai Women During a Traditional Celebration

The Modern Adaptation Of The Maasai Accessories

The Maasai have maintained their way of life and dress-code for thousands of years. Modern fashion icons such as Louis Vuitton, Naomi Campbell, Mafikizolo, victoria’s Secret, and others have borrowed some ideas from the Maasai people. Today people use the Maasai shuka to make clothes or even interior décor pieces. Today, Maasai accessories are popular worldwide. They are particularly savvy because they are made with natural and eco-friendly materials.

Angolan model Maria Borges during the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai China

We Have Some In Stock!!!

If you have been wondering how to get some of these Maasai goodies, worry no more!! We have a variety of Maasai accessories sourced from Kenya. We collaborate with artisans in Kenya where we buy their products. When we sell them here in the USA, we give back to the Maasai community. We will talk more about that on our next blog. If you have any questions, we are glad to answer them. Happy shopping!!

Co-founder of SawaSawa USA Wambui Catherine

Author: Wambui Catherine

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What is sisal fiber?

Sisal fiber is sustainably harvested from the leaves of the agave plant. It is an organic product of nature.

It is durable and washable. It creates fashion textiles that are rough and rustic with an elegant, unique texture.

Our bags – made from sisal and leather – are eco-friendly, sustainable, conscious and bio degradable. They empower artisan women in Kenya. They are ethically-made by hand, fair and all around gorgeous.

Get one today. Support our mission.

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Ethically made, sustainable bags: Our Kiondo Collection Lookbook

Sawa Sawa Collection bags are handwoven by women in Kenya using a craftsmanship that has passed the test of time. The sisal fiber is harvested from the leaves of organic agave plants, dried and dyed with organic plant and naturally occurring dye. The trim is made of leather and adjustable leather straps which comes from the Maasai cattle. Every bag helps empower women and children by giving them economic independence and funding other empowerment initiatives. The bags are available for sale in wholesale and retail quantities. See pictures below. Let us know what you would like to order. If you have a design in mind that is not listed, send us a picture, call us, email let us know how wee can bring it to life.

Please keep in mind each bag takes weeks to weave, trim and ship. Each bags shows how talented and hard working these women are, they give it their all. Thank you for supporting our mission!

Showcase the different use of natural fibers i.e. sisal, wool and papyrus reed in the same bag design.
sawa sawa round kiondo bag

Photography by the talented Summer Miles @andthelivingseasy on Instagram

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Ethically Made Conscious Bags.

Sawa Sawa Collection bags are ethically made by artisan women in Kenya.

Handwoven using organic sisal fiber harvested from the agave plant. The ancient weaving technique has been passed down through generations.

Includes leather trim, leather flap and adjustable leather straps.

Every purchase is a donation to our non-profit. It is a vote for ethical, sustainable, slow, fair fashion.

Help us empower women in Kenya. Shop our collection of ethical bags. Pre-order our bags online. Carry our bags in your store.

Click HERE to view the catalogue look book.

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Menstrual Hygiene Kits for Girls in Kenya

sawasawausa artisan

Our initiative to help girls in Kenya have dignity during their period is very important to us and to our clients. It was Catherine’s idea (co-founder and COO). She is usually out in the field creating rapport with the artisan community and coordinating Sawa Sawa’s efforts. She saw the need and the dire consequences that came with period poverty.

When a girl in the village has her period, she misses a week of school. She cannot compete with the boys and most can’t keep up. She eventually drops out of school and becomes another mouth to feed. Her parents marry her off in her teens in exchange of dowry. She has children long before she is ready with a man who views her as property. She does not have access to good health care or choices for her life. She gets stuck in a poverty trap and is an old woman before she is thirty. The cycle repeats itself when she has a daughter.

With our #endperiodpoverty initiative, she is able to stay in school longer, grow up physically, emotionally and mentally. She gets to choose what happens to her. She escapes the trauma of period taboo and shame. If she chooses to have a daughter, she will have a healthier life and contribute to her community. Educating a girl and helping her stay in school solves most economic and health problems affecting Kenyan women.

PayPal Donate to purchase hygiene kits or SHOP our collection.


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Ethical Fashion!

What is ethical fashion? There are a lot of ways of explaining what’s ethical about fashion. At Sawa Sawa Collection, our products are handmade by women in Kenya using locally sourced natural fibers, beads and leather. The artisans gain a fair, above market price for the products that allows them to live a sustainable, dignified life. The proceeds go back into the community via empowerment programs and menstrual kits for the girls to help them stay in school.

Ethical = How it’s made + who makes it + sustainable, fair wages + materials used + how they are sourced + where it is made + conscious community impact.

#wearyourvalues #sustainablefashion #consciousfashion #ethicalfashion #slowfashion #fairfashion

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Ngong’ Artisans

Ngong’ is a beautiful little town on the Great rift valley. It is known for its beautiful hills that overlook the rift valley views on one side and a national wildlife park on another. It is also the place ‘Out of Africa’ was filmed.

Leah Selei: Matriarch of the Ngong’ artisans pictured with our co-founder.

The artisans are women who live one with nature. They are comprised of mothers and grandmothers who enjoy beading as a rite of passage. They use their skill to make accessories. Through our partnership they are able to make a living to provide basic needs, education and medicine to their families.

Leah and her group can be found at the market in Ngong’ and Nairobi selling some of the accessories.

Kate loves to meet with Leah and spend time listening and learning how we can best serve them.

Thank you for supporting our work and our partnership with the artisan women.

Shop our collection. Donate through PayPal at the bottom of the page 🙂

Contact us to carry our collection. Send us any questions, comments or advice.

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Lookbook – Handcrafted sandals

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Lookbook – Handmade Earrings