March 22, 2010

Maasai footwear fashion.

The Maasai are arguably the most well known among Africa's indigenous peoples. This is true for many reasons, perhaps chief among them is their steadfast resistance to abandon traditional customs and distinctive ways of dress amid varied pressures of globalization.

The Maasai are striking in appearance and adorn themselves in ornate costuming. Deep red and brilliant purple checkered sarongs, or shukas, drape from each shoulder to cover their long and lean bodies. Intricately beaded jewelry hanging from overstretched ear lobes and belts containing weaponry indicate rank and position in society.

Traditionally, the Maasai have populated the border between Tanzania and Kenya, making a living as herders and semi-nomadic pastoralists. Today, many Maasai have flooded into urban centers around Tanzania and Kenya where they have encountered seeming success in capitalizing upon their traditional lifestyle to carve out a niche for themselves in our modern, global economy.

One curious example of this includes traditional Maasai sandals made out of off-road tires that can be found for sale in some of Tanzania's most tourist laden areas.

Incidentally, there were rumors online (I was unable to confirm this from a credible source) that several Maasai "worriers" ran the London marathon in 2008 in their traditional tire sandals. Seriously, imagine that.

In case anyone is more curious to see images of Maasai dress and customs, here is a youtube video:

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