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Maasai Market in Nairobi | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) — Chinese tourists check traditional ornaments at Maasai Market in Nairobi. The Maasai Market is popular among local and international tourists as it offers a wide variety of curio items and local traditional handicraft. Traders make their living by selling African artifacts, curios, paintings and handicrafts from different cultures across Kenya. XINHUA PHOTO: CHARLES ONYANGO

Kenya’s Maasai market remains hub
for cultural artifacts, income sources 

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Maasai market which is located at the heart of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi has stood the test of time to remain the country’s premier bazaar where cultural artifacts that are sold by hundreds of traders always cause a sensation to visitors.

Similar to its name sake, the Maasai market has withstood natural hazards, assault by foreign cultures and numerous dislocation attempts by city planners to remain a haven for art lovers from all walks of life.

African artifacts and curios are the main items traded in the market which is a favorite destination for tourists and Kenyans with significant disposable income.

In addition to selling Kenya’s cultural artifacts to the entire world, the market has been a source of income to thousands of families while women have been the engine behind its resilience and survival.

Beatrice Mwende, a 56 year old female trader, has eked out a living at the famous market since becoming an adult at a time when Nairobi was sparsely populated.

Mwende took over the curio business from her grandmother who was among the market’s pioneers several decades ago and hopes her daughters will continue the legacy.


An artist makes beaded wrist bands | Coastweek

  NAKURU (Xinhua) — An artist makes beaded wrist bands and rings with national flag colors at a workshop in Nakuru. A piece sells between 2 to 3 US Dollars. To the Maasai’s, beaded items represent beauty, strength, tradition, warrior-hood, marriage, age sect, marital status and social status. XINHUA PHOTO: SHEIKH MAINA

“I have been doing this curio business for the last 38 years and I would never sacrifice it for anything else, what I love most about the market is the fact that you get to meet so many people from all over the world and during such interactions, you get to learn a lot,” she told Xinhua in an interview at the market.

“Culture is one of the things that differentiate every individual from the other but all that matters is what we do with this God-given identity,” Mwende added.

The affable business lady says Maasai market’s traders have survived numerous upheavals thanks to their ability to innovate and constantly improve their wares to reflect changing consumer tastes.

“Some of us have embraced diversification to include products like leather wallets, shoes and locally manufactured candles to attract more customers. The artifacts are also more refined,” said Mwende.

Her female peers had kind words for the expansive market that has provided them a platform to earn decent wages and forge lasting friendships.

As for Nana Leshan, a 40 year old curio trader, Maasai market offered a life line to a pastoralist girl who narrowly escaped from the snares of conniving relatives who had arranged a marriage with an old suitor.

At the Maasai market, Leshan started with casual jobs to earn a modest wage but she has now graduated to a proprietor of a thriving curio business.

“I was in my preteen when I visited this market for the first time and found a place where I could earn a living doing odd jobs instead of marrying an old man,”Leshan told Xinhua.

She has been dealing with elephant carvings that are popular with foreign tourists.

Her colleague, Grace Saitoti retains sunny optimism despite undergoing travails while trying to establish a strong footprint in Maasai market.

The mother of three has managed to educate her sons up to university level thanks to proceeds of curio business.

“I cannot regret venturing into curio business that has fed and educated my three children who are now independent and thriving in their careers,” Saitoti mused adding that young women admire her tenacity and business acumen.



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