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We will teach Maasai women in Kenya to weave and knit the plastic bags littering the environment into beautiful, marketable items.
Linda Whelihan
Brattleboro, Vermont
United States
1 Team Member

Maasai Weaving Project

What is the Maasai Weaving Project?

This project aims to use the strength of the Maasai community's creative energy to spark a change in the way that discarded materials are used. By providing looms, weaving supplies, and upcycling know-how to local artisans, we aim to draw attention to the problem of overabundant plastic waste. Cows and wildlife are dying as they ingest the plastic bags that litter Kenya's Maasai Mara Reserve. This brings great hardship to the livestock-dependent Maasai. This project will focus on teaching Maasai women how to turn plastic waste into woven mats, bags, and other marketable products. We hope to transform communities by empowering women with new skills. The products created through the weaving of plastic bags will provide a source of income for families, reduce the amount of plastic ingested by Maasai cattle and wildlife, and give visitors and tourists a tangible way to share the story of the Maasai with their friends and family back home. 

Who is involved?

This idea originated with James Nampushi, a Maasai leader now working towards his doctorate in Parks and Wildlife Management at Clemson University. As a member of the Maasai community, he saw firsthand the effects of plastic waste on the Masaai way of life, and sought a solution. He contacted Chris Gustin of Homestead Weaving in Indiana. Gustin has been making beautiful scarves and rugs out of recycled materials for over 20 years. She generously gave her time and knowledge to teach James and me how to turn plastic bags into colorful, washable rugs. My name is Linda Whelihan and I am an artist and teacher in Brattleboro, Vermont, particularly interested in working with recycled materials. For the past 10 years, I have been collaborating with William Sirkobei ole Osono, James' cousin and a Maasai safari guide, in efforts to share Maasai culture with communities and school groups along the east coast. 

What is the timeframe of this project?

Our fundraising campaign will begin in early April, and end after Earth Day on April, 30th. We will be traveling to Kenya in July and spending two weeks with the women in a community center on the Maasai Mara Reserve. We will focus on providing the women with enough hands-on experience and information to continue growing the project and educating others after we are gone. 

What will the funds be used for specifically? 

The money raised through this campaign will be used to fund the purchase of a loom, knitting supplies and my transportation to Kenya. Any extra funding will go towards additional looms and a pedal powered sewing machine.

raised by 63 people in 30 days
102% funded
No time left
$3,800 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on April 30, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Ashe oleng! (Thanks! in Maa)

    A big thank you and knowledge that you are making a difference with your support!

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2013
  • $25USD
    Tapestry dedication

    Your name will be displayed along with an evergrowing "plarn" tapestry that I am knitting while this campaign is active. With every donation, I will add a recycled glass lens to the tapestry to reflect light and pay tribute to all the wonderful people making this possible. This sculptural piece will be exhibited along with photographs documenting the trip to Kenya after I return.

    9 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2013
  • $40USD
    Abstract notecards

    Set of 8 notecards picturing abstract photographs of the "plarn" tapestry.

    6 out of 25 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2013
  • $60USD

    Bold red t-shirt (the traditional color of the Maasai) emblazoned with an image of a beloved cow and the words "Biotisho Enkop" meaning "healthy environment" in Maa. Wear this shirt proudly and then use the provided instructions to upcycle it by turning it into knittable yarn.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2013
  • $100USD
    t-shirt and pinwheel

    T-shirt as above and your own build-a-pinwheel kit! I've cut and drilled various recyclables for you to construct this wonderful toy. Entertain yourself and impress your friends.

    3 out of 25 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2013
  • $500USD
    Maasai presentation

    If you live in the DC/Baltimore area or near me in Brattleboro, Vermont, I will come to your school, community or home and give a presentation on Maasai culture and African wildlife of the Mara. I have lots of cool things to pass around including dried elephant dung (used as medicine and as a fire starter) and shoes made from recycled tires.

    0 out of 4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2013
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