One of the most colourful experiences that Bev and the team had on their recent safari trip was the visit to the Masai markets in the local area. These markets are an essential part of the local economy and supply a wide variety of goods which are hand made in the local communities and provide a vital income for some of the rural African women. Jewellery is very popular and uses a range of coloured leather and vibrant tiny seed beads in the designs of small beaded bracelets and wide flat necklaces. There are also bright woven textiles in traditional patterns available as lengths of cloth, kikois or sarongs, and other items of traditional dress. To complete the whole outfit, the markets display sandals beautifully decorated with seed beads in intricate patterns alongside coloured leather shoes, bags, belts and purses.
Some villagers are skilled basket weavers who use palm leaves, banana fibre, raffia, plant stalks, baobab fibre, and sisal to create a wide range of baskets, bags, serving bowls and other woven items in gorgeous natural colours as well as hand dyed shades. Weaving is just one of the skills that are passed down the generations enabling communities to work together fulfilling orders that are destined for export, as they work with companies that bring their goods to a wider market.
There are also other handcrafted items for sale including soapstone carvings, wooden sculptures and masks, batik wall hangings, hand carved bowls and serving spoons, and African art. Most of the sellers love to haggle on the price and this was all part of the experience! Sometimes you will be dealing with the person who actually made the goods so they will be eager to tell you about the techniques they have used and who taught them the particular skills, especially if that is a well-respected family member.
“It was fascinating to see this side of life in Africa as well as the beautiful animals and having the chance to speak to Moses and the team. It really was an experience that I won’t forget, and it helped me understand a little bit more of the culture and influences of the craftsmen that make our stunning sculptures”