Getting to know Elizabeth Kaiyoni

28 June 2016 | Inside Angama |

Award-winning British travel journalist Emma Gregg visited Angama Mara and spent some time getting to know Elizabeth Kaiyoni, one of the Maasai Beaders working in the Angama Beading Studio

To some, this is sacrilege, so I’m going to whisper it. There are times, on safari, when it’s tempting to give the morning drive a miss. Don’t worry. Nobody’s judging you. At Angama Mara, your time is your own. Instead of wrenching yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn, how about this for a plan? Start the day gently. Have a leisurely breakfast on the deck. Then meander into the craft studio to meet Angama Mara’s friendly Maasai craftworkers. You could have a go at beading, or simply sit down for a chat.

I asked one of the team, Elizabeth Kaiyoni, about her background and traditions. Here’s what she said.

How many siblings do you have, and do you have a favourite?

We are five in our family. My brother and I have a deep connection because we breastfed at the same time.

How did you learn your craft?

My grandmother taught me how to work with beads when I was a girl. Selling the things I made was my way of contributing to the family.

What’s the significance of the beads worn by Maasai women?

We have necklaces for specific events like weddings or meetings with the elders. This is something that is passed from one generation to another. I make my necklaces myself. When I wear them, I feel in touch with tradition.

Elizabeth beading

Why are Maasai traditions important to you?

They teach our children how to become good elders. They know how to keep peace within themselves. Also, tourists find them interesting – many people want to dress and dance like the Maasai! The more we present and explain our culture to tourists, the more our community benefits. We now have schools, hospitals and an outlet for our products.

Are you proud to be Maasai?

Yes, because we’ve kept our culture intact. We have a lot of cows and that’s our wealth. We live in manyattas – groups of small houses. They unite us – it’s a cheap and resourceful way to live.

What does it mean to you to be African?

My skin doesn’t change even if I walk under a hot sun. If I’m pricked by a thorn, I remove it and apply herbs and it heals very fast. I am African, therefore I am tough.

What makes you happiest?

I am old but I’m happy because I’m in my home country, I’m healthy and I’m at peace.

AUTHOR: Emma Gregg

Award-winning British travel journalist Emma Gregg made her first trip to Africa in the early 1990s, and felt instantly at home. Since then, she has spent time in over 30 African countries, sampling everything from obscure music festivals to high-end conservation safaris. A former editor of Travel Africa magazine, she writes about ecotourism, culture and responsible tourism for National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian and The Independent and has produced ten guide books for Rough Guides and other leading publishers. She’s always planning the next adventure. Follow her on twitter or visit her website.

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