Beads are an integral part of the African history and culture.They were used as a status symbol,adornment and gift.
These attractive beads are made of plastic and glass that the Maasai obtained from other communities through trade. Before that the Maasai used wood,iron, seeds and shells as materials to make their traditional ornaments. Making jewelry is done specifically by women and it’s considered their duty to learn bead work. In the pastoral communities beaded necklaces were used to indicate the status of one in society.A young unmarried Samburu lady would wear a series of beaded necklaces, which have been given to her as gifts.These beaded necklaces would make her desirable thus securing a marriage proposal. Amongst the Kikuyu a circumcised man would wear a beaded belt known as Kenyatta until he became an elder.In South Africa the Zulu used specific color of the beads to convey a message to their suitor.
They are a major feature during many traditional festivals during which devotees and participants decorate their bodies with beads of different shapes, colours and sizes. Glass Beads were also one of the products traded, in exchange for humans between Europeans and West Africans in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade era. Later beads signified royalty and distinguished a royal father from his subjects, chieftain title holders and other monarchs always wore beads.Glass beads in Africa are mostly made by the Bida of Nigeria, Krobo of Ghana and Baoule of Cote d’Ivoire.
Cowrie shells are valued for their durability and aesthetics.They were once used as burial offerings and symbolize fertility.
It is believed that cowrie shells were the first currency used by mankind. In Ancient Africa they represented wealth and were traded for food,goods and services. They were mostly sourced from India.Nowadays they are used in ornaments and numerous decorations.