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Waist Beads: The Culture of Wearing Waist Beads

Origin of the waist bead

While there’s so much history behind waist beads. It’s generally agreed that the existence of waist beads dates back to antiquity, as far back as the 15th century. Some scholars are of the opinion that the history of beads began in ancient Egypt (North Africa).

They were donned by beautiful women as a status symbol. They were simply called ‘girdles’ at the time.

In West Africa, many historians believe the tradition of waist beads was popularized by the Yoruba tribes. Also, notably in Senegal and Ghana where they speak of nobility, femininity, and affluence. Today, almost all African countries are in the habit of wearing the waist beads. Countries like Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone have also adopted the waist bead.

Cultural Implications and Meaning Waist Beads

The tradition of wearing waist beads can be said to be as old as man and we can boldly say that waist beads are more attractive in the African woman’s waist. Waist bid wearing in African has no age but it has numbers to which a young lady can wear so some younger women always long to reach the age where they could adorn so many on their waist.

The waist beads are hidden from view underneath the modest female clothes that were favoured in those times, the beads peeked out at random intervals, surprising and enticing an onlooker. Although some people remained unaware of their significance, the allure of a beaded woman was practically undeniable.

There are many varied reasons we have come across as to why African waist beads were/are worn. Common folklore attributes it to the definition of a woman’s waist; in essence, that it helps them to maintain their shape and figures. In the traditional Ghanaian culture, many strings of beads were worn around the bikini line were employed as an anchor to strap the menstrual cloth.

significance of the beads includes:

1• As a symbol of femininity and sensuality, only the partner a woman chooses would have the honor of seeing them fully.


2• As a sign that a woman had reached marriageable age and could now have suitors


3• Strung with bells, to show that a woman was still pure as at the time of marriage.


4• Worn on babies during naming ceremonies, some say; to accentuate their waistlines and hips as they grow.


5• As a weight measure; when gaining weight, the belt of the beads climb up and when you lose weight, it falls elegantly on the hips.


6• Upon addition of precious stones, waist beads take on healing or rejuvenation qualities; depending on ailment or what needs to be enhanced (i.e. love, physic powers, balancing), various semi-precious stones can be included in the design of your waist beads.


These days, only a few people maintain the culture of adorning these beads on a daily basis, but a vast majority are likely to put them on during special occasions. Most of the significance of the tradition is also now mostly redundant.

The women who adorn waist beads in this day and age, use it more for ornamental and beautification reasons, or simply to check their weights, so it may be wise not to read too much into a woman’s decision to wear them.

Waist bead color: Meaning and Significance

Generally, colours play very important roles in our lives. While some people easily get drawn to bright colours, some certain colours, on the hand, literally get on other people’s nerves.

The color of a waist bead varies from culture to culture, tribe to tribe, its significance is considered very important and powerful in many African communities. Choosing the right color of beads remains as important as its design, weight, length, and flexibility.
Below are the meanings of some bead waist color.


1• Brown – Earth and stability.


2• Gold – Good health, power and wealth.


3• Green – Abundance, fertility, nature and prosperity.


4• Red – Confidence and vitality.


5• Turquoise – Communication and self-awareness.


6• White – Light, truth and purity.6

7• Yellow – Energy, joy and happiness.


8• Black – Power and protection.


9• Blue – Loyalty and truth.


9• Orange – Courage, self-confidence and vitality.


10• Pink – Care, beauty, love and kindness.


11• Purple – Royalty, spirituality and wisdom.


The waist bead bears different names in different tribes. In Nigeria, the northern part of the country calls it Jigida while the Yorubas (the people of Southwestern Nigeria) call it Bebedi. The Igbo people calls it mgbájị́.

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