May 21, 2019 3 min read
The idea for Sidai designs came about through a meeting of minds. In 2009, Eszter Rabin, a creative director and entrepreneur, met Emmanuel Melubo Laizer, a Maasai warrior, and they discovered their shared interest in helping under-served communities.
Fast forward ten years, and Sidai Designs is a thriving social enterprise that supports Maasai women in Tanzania by collaborating with them to create high-end, modern jewelry based on traditional beading techniques. The organization is simultaneously elevating traditional craftsmanship, preserving traditions, creating sustainable employment and empowering women.
It’s the details that make Sidai’s jewelry pieces meaningful and evocative. The collection features a leather beaded cuff which depicts a young man’s journey from boyhood to warriorhood – he wears black and adorns himself with white beaded jewelry and detailed face markings.
The simple Endito necklace is a tribute to young Maasai girls, who sit with their mothers and learn to bead while singing songs. Until they are ready to marry, the young girls wear only simply strung beaded jewelry.
The Maasai’s homelands are also referenced in the jewelry. The Porcupine earrings are inspired by quills of these animals found on Mount Kilimanjaro, as high up as 11,480 feet. The simple, flattering beaded Kisongo necklace is inspired by the golden rays of an African sunset.
It’s not just the backstories that make Sidai jewelry special; each individual piece is truly unique. Because everything is handmade, no two pieces will ever be exactly the same. Different hands craft each piece and the slight irregularities and differences are a celebrated mark of artisanship and beauty.
Through Sidai’s commitment to paying a fair income, the women are able to contribute towards education for their children and savings for their family. For the team at Sidai, true empowerment is not just about the benefit it can bring to the individual, it is also about creating hope, pride and opportunity amongst the Maasai community.
Rather than using mass-produced materials, Sidai favors the traditional materials with which these pieces are made in the village. A combination of ingeniously upcycled products are used: traditional glass beads are intricately joined using thread salvaged from old grain bags and enhanced with recycled metal beads, old canisters and yoghurt pots create the boning. The jewelry is elegantly finished with luxury soft leather, sterling silver and gold plated beads.
I handpicked Sidai for Sarza customers because I am passionate about bringing you bold stories from Africa. The Maasai’s beading techniques have been a mark of their beauty and prosperity for centuries so I am delighted to share this with you. From a design perspective, I love the combination of heritage craft and a modern aesthetic. I am proud to support an organization that is sustainable, ethical and driving female empowerment. Sidai means beauty or good in Maa, the Maasai language and, in every sense, this jewelry is exactly that.
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