Like the people, the tribes portrayed in this beautiful set are beautifully ornate. Adorned in robes and jewellery, the kings are attended by their equally bejewelled Queens each bearing a child. This is significant as children are a sign of wealth within the Masai culture.
Austere looking tribal elders depict the bishops whilst their beloved cattle symbolise the knights. Masai shelters under the protection of a tree stand as the rooks whilst the pawns are the young Masai warriors who have endured painful traditions and customs to achieve the honour of bearing the staff and shield to defend their tribe.
These two tribes meet on a beautiful 16 inch walnut and maple board crafted by the world famous Rechapados Ferrer of Spain. The Masai Hand Painted Chess Men are also available without the board but either way this makes a stunning and unique chess set.
Indigenous to the Nile (Nilotic), The Masai (or Maasai) inhabit southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. With their distinctive dress and customs, together with their proximity to the many game parks, they are among the best known local populations. Whilst they speak the Maa language they are also educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania, Swahili and English. From the census reported in 2009, it would seem that the Masai population in Kenya is growing, numbering 841,622 compared to 377,089 in 1989.
Whilst the Governments in both Tanzania and Kenya have initiated programs to encourage the Masai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, they have stuck to their traditions and customs. Indeed, because of their ability to farm in deserts and scrub lands, Oxfam has claimed that the lifestyle of the Masai should, in fact, be embraced as a response to climate change. Many Masai tribes, throughout Tanzania and Kenya, welcome visits to their village to experience their culture, traditions, and lifestyle.
Strongly patriarchal in nature Masai society, it is the elder men and, periodically, retired elders who decide most major matters for each Masai group. A full body of oral law covers many aspects. Formal execution is unknown instead they favour payment in cattle to settle matters. Life for the traditional Masai centres around their cattle which constitute their primary source of food.
Cattle, together with children, also signifies a man's wealth. A herd of 50 beasts for example, is respectable, and the more children the better. However a man who has an abundance of one but not the other is still considered to be poor.
Cattle meet all of the Masai’s food needs as they eat the meat, drink the milk and on occasion, drink the blood. On special occasions and for ceremonie, other livestock such as bulls, oxen and lambs are slaughtered for meat. Although the Masai’s entire way of life has historically depended on their cattle, due to their herds dwindling, they have grown more dependent on food such as rice, cabbage, sorghum and potatoes.