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
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
and curios are the main items traded in the market which is a
favorite destination for tourists and Kenyans with significant
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
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
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.
(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
“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
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
“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