Social-Cultural Impact of Bead work in East Africa: the Nexus between the Dinka, Samburu & Masaai Ethnicities



    Beadwork has been practiced in Africa and worldwide for centuries. In East Africa, different communities made beads from a wide range of materials available to them. This materials range from black coral collected from the Indian Ocean to the use of bone from their livestock. This study is an analysis of beadwork uses in the following East African communities; Dinka of South Sudan, Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, and the Samburu of Kenya. Conducted in Nairobi, the objective was to establish its social-cultural significance as an art form. It was also a part of the annual design symposia, workshops and presentations involving master’s students, faculty, experts and stakeholders. The research used an interview guide, observation and a historical research method. The findings established that beadwork was used for social, cultural and religious practices in all the communities. These include, rites of passage, decoration and ornamentation, and also for political and leadership purposes. Despite the similarities in occasions, the types, and colors of beads used differed. The findings further pointed out the unique characteristics in color, materials, shape of beads in each community.