Maasai Fighting for Compensation from Fashion Labels Who’ve Appropriated Their Iconic Cultural BrandBrand

(Atlanta Black Star) — The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania embody one of the most powerful images of tribal Africa, but it’s a guise that’s becoming increasingly imitated.

Companies around the world have, for some time now, continued to exploit the Maasai’s iconic cultural brand in a bid to infuse a patina of exoticism to their products and increase sales.

The most familiar, perhaps, harks back to Louis Vuitton’s 2012 spring/summer men’s collection that included hats, shirts and scarves inspired by the Maasai Shuka, a traditional African blanket cast in colorful shades of red and blue.

The key issue here is that the Maasai people aren’t being compensated for anything sold under these luxury brands’ names despite having helped them sell billions of dollars worth of goods worldwide, according to Light Years IP, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that works on public interest intellectual property issues internationally.