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Importance of sisal baskets and products to communities in Africa

kenyan sisal plant, sisal baskets

Sisal has economic and cultural significance in communities across east Africa. In Swahili its called Mkonge. Sisal is grown in eastern part of Kenya and coastal region. 

Before introduction of currency in Africa, sisal and sisal products were used as a means of exchange during  batter trade while trading with other communities along east Africa.

In African communities Women are the sole weavers of baskets, the art of basket weaving is passed on from mother to daughter, one generation to another. Little Girls learn the skills  by watching their mothers from a tender age after which they start  making sisal ropes. As they grow so does their skill, andAnd women who can’t weave are considered not fit for marriage.

Sisal is also woven into colorful costumes that traditional dancers perform in during cultural ceremonies. 

During wedding ceremonies, the bride  is presented with sisal baskets filled with food by respected and older women from the grooms family. she is expected to take it every morning when she goes to work on her family’s farm and come back with it full so as to keep  her family well fed.

Gifting of sisal baskets during wedding ceremonies played a major role in keeping families together, making divorce cases rare, this is because before the woman leaves  her matrimonial home, she was expected to take back the basket to the person who gifted them. This will entail them explaining why they are leaving and the family will help solve the grievances in the marriage beside it goes further.

Sisal is harvested in a way that is not harmful to the entire plant. Fibre is extracted by a process known as decortication, where leaves are crushed, beaten, and brushed away by a rotating wheel set with blunt knives, so that only fibres remain, after which  water is used to wash away the waste parts of the leaf.

The fibre is then dried and brushed Proper drying is important as fibre quality depends largely on moisture content.  It’s then dyed and sun dried. 

Sisal products are known for their strength, durability, ability to stretch, affinity for certain dyestuffs, and resistance to deterioration in saltwater.

Sisal is a valuable forage for honey bees because of its long flowering period. It is particularly attractive to them during pollen shortage. The honey produced is however dark and has a strong and unpleasant flavour

img_6942-1Traditional dancers adorned in colorful shashay sisal skirts

kenyan sisal plant, sisal basketsSisal plantations

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Meaning of Maasai/Masai bead Colors

Meaning of Maasai/ masa ibead colors

Jewelries are an integral cultural aspect of the Maasai tribal community. It not only beautiful but it is also a means of expression as well as it gives an individual a sense of identity.
The jewelry design and color indicates the sub-group a person is from. It also indicates the status of a Maasai woman whether she is Single, engaged or married.
It is considered the duty of every Maasai women to learn the jewelry making craft.
All the tribes beadwork is made by the women but is worn by both women and men. Jewelry among the Maasai are made in different colors. the design and pattern are the one that marks and differentiate the status.  The beadwork an individual wears will signify their age and social status. Generally individuals of high social standing will wear more colorful and intricate jewelry. The colors used in the beadwork are selected for their beauty. The colors are also symbolic and have important meanings understood by the tribe. Often these meanings have an association with cattle, which is the Maasai’s main food source and for which they have a deep connection. For instance: –
Red – stands for bravery, unity, and blood. Red is the color of cows blood. Often a cow is slaughtered when the Maasai meet and therefore unity is associated with red. And during important community ceremonies like Initiation
White – represents peace, purity, and health. The association with health comes from white cows milk which the tribe drinks to stay healthy. Milk that comes from cows is considered pure as it is milked directly from them.
Blue – represents energy and the sky. Rain falls from the blue sky which provides water for the cattle and makes the grasses that cow feed on to grow.
Orange – Symbolizes hospitality. The association with cattle is that visitors are served cows milk from orange gourds.
Yellow – like orange yellow also symbolizes hospitality. The animal skins from cattle which guests lie on are usually Yellow
Green – symbolizes health and land. Cattle graze on the green grass of the land.

Black – represents the people and the struggles they must endure

Our Maasai/masai jewelries are all made using the traditional Masai jewelry making skills, passion and culture. Each one is unique, handmade and tell a story of a woman behind the scene. Every purchase places a book in the hand of a girl. We believe emancipation of African girls from bondage of unfair cultural practices that favor boy child over girls.

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