Beaded jewelry company, Sidai Designs, started working with Maasai artisans in 2011. What started as the endeavor of five women is now a thriving business with 19 full-time staff that work with up to 100 beaders, the vast majority of them women. For millennia, members of Africa’s Maasai tribe have lived in Tanzania’s arid north-central Arusha region, where years of drought, overpopulation, and economic strain have made it challenging for many to realize financial stability. The artisans of Sidai Designs are able to support themselves and their families through their creative expressions.
Sidai Designs produces a range of wearable art, wall hangings, mobiles and more, embellished with shiny glass seed beads. Frequently, these pieces are composed of patterns of triangles, squares, circles and groups of dots which suggest landscapes, huts, shields, and arrows. Artisans work with three main techniques: bead embroidery, hand weaving, and wire wrapping. Bead embroidery, which is used for making wrist cuffs and wall art, is done on untreated leather or soft suede. Hand weaving is the most basic and common Maasai beading technique practiced, and it involves eco-friendly recycling practices; handspun thread for stringing beads is made from grain bags and boning for structure is cut from discarded plastic canisters. Lastly, wire wrapping adds beautiful metallic embellishments that accentuate beadwork. In addition to their beaded jewelry and artworks, Sidai Designs offers charming drawings on paper of jewelry designs.
Sidai Designs offers Maasai women the opportunity to gain lasting, unique creative knowledge which can be used to support themselves and their families. In Maa, the language of the Maasai tribe, “Sidai” means good or beautiful. It’s a fitting name for an organization that shines both inside and out.