The Dorothy Methvin McClatchey Collection

Neck Collar

Neck Collar

Kenya or Tanzania
1994.34.121
20th Century

The Maasai are pastoralists that live in the Great Rift Valley of east Africa, an area encompassing much of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Like many other east African tribes, the Maasai are known for their colorful beadwork. The flat neck collars worn by Maasai women are perhaps the most distinctive beadwork produced by this group. The collars are made of plastic beads threaded on wire and spaced with strips of cow hide. Bead patterns are always geometric and can reflect different age-sets and identity grades. Maasai women are responsible for making the beadwork worn by themselves and the male members of the group. Glass and plastic beads were introduced to the Maasai in the early nineteenth century by Arab and East Indian traders, but it wasn't until the early twentieth century that the beads became popular among the Maasai.