Natural Selections Gift Shop Spotlight: Zulugrass

We strive to fill the Natural Selections Gift Shop with fun, educational items for children, while at the same time providing high-quality, unique gifts for adults. One of the product lines we’re proud to carry is Zulugrass.  A member of the Fair Trade Federation, Zulugrass offers beautiful handmade beaded jewelry, and purchasing it supports the very women that make it!  Read how it all started, then come to the Natural Selections Gift Shop to check Zulugrass out for yourself!

Zulugrass

Leading a traditionally pastoral lifestyle, the Maasai people of the Great Rift Valley of Kenya and Tanzania herd cattle and live off the land. Despite modernization and change happening around them, the Maasai continue to keep their culture and traditions alive, adorning themselves with colorful clothing and ornaments.

After a terrible drought devastated the area and killed their cattle, essentially destroying their livelihood, the Maasai men were forced to drive the few remaining cattle miles away in search of better grazing, while the women were left (ill-equipped) to feed, clothe, and support their families.

zulugrass

photo courtesy of leakeycollection.com

Philip and Katy Leakey live among the Maasai, and decided they had to do something to help their neighbors get through the hard times that lie ahead. By utilizing the natural resources around them and the skilled beadwork of the Maasai women, the Leakeys came up with an idea…and Zulugrass was born!

zulugrass beaded jewelryZulugrass jewelry is made from tall, native grass that is dried, cut into beads, dyed in over 200 colors, and strung onto durable elastic. The Leakeys added the touch of Czech glass beads for a more contemporary look with a bit of sparkle. The strands can be worn as necklaces, bracelets, anklets, chokers, and even belts!

zulugrassWomen began harvesting blades of grass one at a time for the unique handmade jewelry. Word spread of the opportunity that Zulugrass presented, allowing women the flexibility to bring their babies and toddlers to work and earn money for each piece of jewelry they made. Soon, women were walking as far as 2 hours each way to take advantage of this!

Zulugrass continues to grow, and now over 1,400 Maasai women are making Zulugrass, using their skills to support their families while maintaining the integrity of their traditional lifestyle.

Zulugrass is a fair trade product that supports the local economy of the Maasai people in Kenya.  For more information on Zulugrass jewelry and other fair trade products they make, visit www.leakeycollection.com.