Maasai Ladies Project

Piece by CSR21 Land Citizenship

In March of 2012, Hayley Henning, Executive Director of the Tanzanite Foundation, formed a group of Maasai Ladies to teach them the art of Wire Wrap Jewelry Making. The women are a part of the Naisinyai ward, a local community that lives just outside the TanzaniteOne mining operation in Tanzania, East Africa. Naomi Sarna, an Internationally renowned gemstone carver and jewelry designer, was invited to Tanzania to help teach the Ladies. Her visit to was two fold; firstly to select prime pieces of tanzanite that would be suitable for carving, and secondly to have an opportunity to interact with the local Maasai women, and teach them a skill that would be sustaining, and would help them to develop their own business.

Tumbled tanzanite for the workshop was donated by neighboring TanzaniteOne Mining Ltd, and the necessary tools were brought from the US. Many of the women had never seen pliers before, but were quick to adopt the wire wrapping skills. Since April last year, the 12 women gather three times a week, in a small house next door to the Nasinyai Primary School.

”Their progress is remarkable and the pieces stunning” said Henning, “Each item is a handcrafted work of art, and their use of the tumbled tanzanite, with their Maasai designs, show both creativity and tradition. For example, the coil design, a focus in their collection, symbolizes that a woman has a son who is a warrior. Everybody who’s seen their work is so impressed! The pieces are being sold on a US television jewelry and gemstone sales network, as well as in the Tanzanite Experience stores in Tanzania. The proceeds go back to the women who will in time be able to build their own workshop.”

Naomi Sarna says “I’m honored to be a part of the Masai Ladies Project and thrilled to see what they have produced. My hope was that I could teach them a skill which was compatible with their traditional hand beadwork, maintain their cultural history and also move gently into the 21st  Centurey with a new revenue source. The outpouring of affection between us and their eager response to the Project was beyond my wildest dreams. I look forward to their development of designs which will be integrated into their daily life patterns and representative of their ways. I am forever grateful to Hayley Henning, Director of the Tanzanite Foundation for this extraordinary professional and personal opportunity.”