Basecamp Maasai Brand was set up in 2003 to empower women in the Talek region of the Masai Mara, and to maintain and enhance the handicraft traditions and designs of the famous Maasai bead works. 118 women are included in the BMB initiative.

Photo: Anna Lewart

 All products are based on traditional designs, with a modern twist. The pieces are handmade with traditional beads, recycled thread and scrap metal. The BMB works with high quality standards and strive to appeal to the Western export market. Today 118 women work for the initiative and free trade agreement ensures that 75% of the sales price goes back to the crafters.

Typically the crafters earnings are used to improve housing and health care, and for children’s schooling and clothing. Some of the women in the initiative now have higher income than the men in their communities.

Each Maasai necklace has a special meaning and marks a significant stage in the women’s life. Not only jewellery but also accessories are made from or decorated with beads.

In the past Italian designer Roberto Cavalli and the English Matthew Williamson brought Maasai jewellery and accessories onto the world’s fashion stage: Cavalli for example paraded models clad in Maasai necklaces and bracelets.

The potential for East African bead artisans to export their designs has recently been uncovered by the Africa Inspires Initiative of the International Trade Centre. The project serves as a platform for local craftspeople to promote their wares to European fashion brands. They work together in developing the designs and integrating it into the collection.

The BMB has managed to set up an export scheme by having the women developing styles that appeal to the Scandinavian market.

Photo: Anna Lewart

AuthorCato Litangen