Jewellery designs by a group of Newcastle schoolgirls have been brought to life by Maasai women from Kenya.
The girls from Central Newcastle High School yesterday welcomed Maasai visitors from Kenya’s Namayiana project, who have been using their traditional beadwork skills to roll out the designs of pupils.
The visit was the joint initiative of Central High and Shared Interest, a Newcastle-based ethical investment co-operative and fair trade lender, which finances buyers and producers in the developing world.
Shared Interest has links with Namayiana project, a group of enterprising Maasai women from the Ngong region of Kenya who make and sell traditional beaded jewellery.
Their beautiful work is providing much-needed money for their communities and is also improving the status of the women within their tribes.
Alison Goldie, head of art at the school, was keen to make a connection with the Maasai women running the project, and set her pupils the task of creating designs that could be produced with the Maasai techniques. Each girl in Year 10 has designed a piece of jewellery for the Namayiana project to make. The designs were sent over to Kenya, and the women have been working over the last few weeks to bring 90 pieces of jewellery designs to life.
Ms Goldie said: “It has been a wonderful opportunity for the girls to be able to become involved in such an interesting project and great to see the variety of designs that the girls produced and how the ladies have translated these images into their beautiful jewellery.
“Not only were the girls able to be creative and imaginative in their designs, but they were also able to learn about many different aspects of the Namayiana ladies lives.
“As well as learning how they made the jewellery, the girls also found out how the women make a living from their cooperative, their living conditions and the very limited opportunities that Maasai women and children have, and also how they would be able to help with the potential education of Maasai girls from this area”.
As well as talking to the girls about their work and life, the two visitors, Cathereine Mututua, project manager of Namayiana and Nouason ene Marona, chair of Namayiana, also held jewellery-making workshops at both the junior and senior schools.
Education for girls has never been a priority for the Maasai community, and the women of Namayiana are fundraising to ensure that girls from their community can now begin to enjoy an education.
The jewellery will be sold at the school and proceeds will be donated to the education fund for the Maasai children.
Ms Mututua said: “It is wonderful to visit the UK and meet our investors, and also to share time with women and girls in a different culture to our own.
“We have 268 children in our community who are in need. The Maasai women face many challenges which are generally brought about by lack of education. With this in mind, we have decided to fundraise to help our children to go to school.”
Central High headteacher Hilary French said: “We are very grateful to the Shared Society for introducing us to this wonderful and very worthwhile project and very honoured that Catherine and Nouason are with us today to unveil the beautiful jewellery which has resulted from this joint collaboration.”