Story of the Maasai

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Meet the Masaai

The Maasai are a tall, proud, and graceful people that live a traditionally pastoral lifestyle in the magnificent Great Rift Valley of Kenya and Tanzania. Adorned in colorful clothing and ornaments, the Maasai still keep their traditions intact - herding cattle and living off the land- as modernization and outside influences begin to change the world around them.

In 2001, a terrible drought persisted after several years of ruin and devastation to the pasture lands. The Maasai's livelihood disappeared as their cattle died. The men had to drive the few remaining cattle hundreds of miles away in search for better grazing while the women looked desperately for ways to feed, clothe, and educate their children and obtain medical supplies.

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The Birth of Zulugrass!

Philip and Katy Leakey, who live among the Maasai in the Kenyan bush, wanted to help their neighbors and provide them with work opportunities without changing their culture. They came up with an imaginative idea to utilize the excellent beading abilities of the Maasai women by using a readily available, sustainable resource- GRASS- as the primary element.

Soon the women were harvesting grass, one blade at a time. The long grass was dried and cut into bead-size pieces and dyed in lovely hues which were then strung into necklaces and bracelets. The Leakeys added brilliant Czech glass beads to their designs to give sparkle and a contemporary flair to the jewelry. These exquisite jewelry collections are environmentally friendly products made by the highest standards of fair trade practices. Alas, the essence of Zulugrass commends with sustainable design and eco products that give back to the community.

Shortly after, the women learned that they could bring their babies and toddlers with them and they would be paid by the piece as they chose to work. As word passed through the Maasai community, women started walking as much as two hours each way to have their first chance to earn money. Now, over 1,400 hundred Maasai women are making Zulugrass, while continuing to lead their lives in their traditional lifestyle.

Philip and Katy Leakey's inspiration brought Zulugrass to life - the beautiful, unique & earth friendly jewelry handcrafted by beading experts, the Maasai women of Kenya. Zulugrass continues to provide much needed and desired opportunity for these wonderful women and their families.