Date of Award

Spring 4-16-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Art and Design

First Advisor

Dr. Kimberly Cleveland

Second Advisor

Dr. Maria Gindhart

Third Advisor

Dr. Amira Jarmakani

Abstract

Pokot female body art identifies a woman’s beauty, husband, and social rank among the Pokot community through color, pattern, and mass. In the last sixty years, as a result of Kenya’s entrance into the global economy, Pokot women have turned a “traditional” art form into a commodity, creating a product for Western tourists that, in turn, provides Pokot women with a means to earn income that is less readily under male control. Pokot women consciously create beadwork that alludes to the “Idea of Africa,” while also conforming to Western standards of “colonial chic.” The result is a body art that visualizes a harmonious interaction between “exotic” and “modern.” This thesis argues that with the successful integration of beadwork into the global market, Pokot women have strategically identified an alternative to their traditional, gender-related power constraints and challenged historical constructions of Pokot gender identity.

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