The Maasai people are a nomadic culture in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya; they are livestock herders who rely heavily on cattle both for food and for products such as leather. Basketry is a tradition practiced throughout Africa, and it is likewise practiced by the Maasai. Baskets are used for many purposes, including winnowing and measuring grain and storing and serving food and drink; a basket can be made water-tight by burning certain plants inside of the basket to create a sealant.
Baskets may also be used to hold money, jewelry, or ritual objects, and these types of containers usually have lids to keep the objects secure. As with this lidded basket, leather is sometimes sewn onto the walls of the basket in order to provide extra strength and to ensure longevity. Among the many cultures of Africa that practice basketry, the Maasai are especially well-known for their leather-covered baskets, and this container is a fine example of their artistry.
For more information, you may contact the researcher(s) noted in the title of this exhibit entry, or Dr. Billie Follensbee, the professor of the course, at BillieFollensbee@MissouriState.edu