top of page

Preserving Masaai Culture: A Conversation with H.E. Bitange Ndemo on Intell'l Property Protection

Save the date!!, the Organization of Women in International Trade, Brussels Chapter (OWIT - BRUSSELS) and OWIT - KENYA are pleased to invite you to a Conversation with H.E. Professor Elijah Bitange Ndemo, the Ambassador of Kenya to Belgium and the EU, on 19 October 2023 at 12h00 - 13h00 CET.


The webinar's primary focus is to delve into the current state of Masaai traditional arts and culture, particularly in regard to instances of copying or appropriation by merchants and artists. Our overarching objectives are:

Examine the Impact: To comprehensively assess the impact of these actions on the Masaai population, considering both positive and negative consequences. This will involve a deep dive into how these practices affect the community, its cultural preservation, and economic well-being.

IP Protection Efforts: Gain insights into the efforts made thus far by organizations like WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and others in safeguarding Masai cultural heritage and intellectual property. This includes an examination of existing initiatives and their effectiveness.

Future Expectations: Explore the potential future developments and actions that can be anticipated in the realm of protecting Masai traditional arts and culture. This discussion will include strategies and recommendations for preserving and respecting this cultural heritage.

By addressing these objectives during the webinar, we aim to foster a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to Masai traditional arts and culture, promoting dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders to ensure the continued vitality and integrity of this heritage.


Following a meeting with His Excellency, the Ambassador of Kenya to Belgium and the EU H.E Professor Bitange Ndemo, OWIT Brussels team decided to propose the opportunity to collaborate with OWIT Nairobi and and with the help of two IP experts, to hold an online discussion, shading light on the Masaai cultural arts being exploited in diverse contexts.

The history of Masai litigations concerning the misappropriation of their cultural art is a complex and ongoing narrative that reflects the challenges faced by indigenous communities in protecting their heritage and traditional knowledge. While specific legal battles and litigations may not be as prevalent as in some other cases, the broader issues surrounding the misappropriation of Masaai cultural art and knowledge have been a subject of concern and advocacy. Below is a general overview and key points:

1. Historical Exploitation: The Masai people, who primarily inhabit parts of East Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania, have a rich cultural heritage that includes traditional art, beadwork, clothing, and knowledge passed down through generations. Over the years, elements of Masaai culture have been appropriated and commercialized, often without the community's consent or fair compensation.

2. Limited Legal Framework: The challenge for the Masaai, like many indigenous communities, is that intellectual property laws have historically provided limited protection for traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. Intellectual property systems, which often prioritize individual ownership and innovation, have not effectively addressed communal or collective rights.

3. Advocacy and Awareness: In response to the ongoing exploitation, advocacy groups, scholars, and indigenous rights organizations have raised awareness about the cultural misappropriation faced by the Masaai and other indigenous groups. They have highlighted the need for legal recognition and protection of traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

4. WIPO and International Recognition: The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and other international bodies have recognized the importance of addressing the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore (IGC) has been working on developing international agreements to safeguard indigenous rights.

5. Community Initiatives: In addition to legal avenues, the Masaai and other indigenous communities have taken initiatives at the community level to document and protect their traditional knowledge, including their art and cultural expressions. This includes efforts to record oral traditions, document artistic practices, and promote cultural education.

6. Ongoing Challenges: Despite these efforts, challenges persist. Legal recognition and protection for communal intellectual property rights remain a complex and evolving issue. There is a need for stronger legal mechanisms, international cooperation, and culturally sensitive solutions to address the appropriation of Masaai cultural art and knowledge.

In summary, while there may not be a long history of specific litigations involving the Masaai, their struggle to protect their cultural heritage and intellectual property rights is part of a broader global conversation about indigenous rights and the need for more inclusive and protective legal frameworks. The journey continues as indigenous communities, advocates, and policymakers work together to find solutions that honour and preserve these invaluable cultural treasures.

The conversation will address the following:

- What is the situation today and what are the consequences for Masaai and especially Masaai Women?

- Why protect the MASAI Arts and what has been done up to now?

Come and hear from the Masaai themselves, OWIT Kenya, the Kenya Intellectual Property Institute and IP experts Sanaz Javad Farahzad and Susan Isiko Štrba.

Please sign up for the FREE conversation at the link below. You will receive a zoom link after signing up.

32 views0 comments


bottom of page