Ghana Waist Beads: Culture and Meaning


 Ghanaians are lovers of beads. And not only do they love them, but it is also an essential part of their rich culture and heritage. As a result of that, beads are revered and highly treasured in this part of the world.

 Beyond self-expression and decoration, the Ghanaian beads are used to express messages, ideas, and symbolism when the beads' colors are understood.

Waist beads can also make for a great communication tool. Usually, in most parts of West Africa where the use of waist beads are embraced, it is not only worn for decoration or adornment but as a cultural expression of social class, nobility, wealth, and happiness.


The Meaning of Ghana Waist Beads

In Ghana, when a child is born, waist beads are worn for the child at the naming ceremony. In certain tribes, these beads are worn for both male and female child. As the male child grows and starts to learn how to walk, his beads will be removed.

For the female child, she keeps wearing the beads, and more are added as she grows. These beads are believed to keep her waist size small, accentuate her hips or in some cases used as protection.

In cultures like the Ashante’s and Krobo’s, waist beads are gifts a mother gives to her daughters to celebrate their maturity into adulthood.

At this time, larger beads can be added to the previous ones on her waist so that potential suitors can be aware of her availability and be attracted to her. 


Uses of Ghanaian Beads

In the past, beads in Ghana have been used as currency for trading, celebration during festivals or initiation rites, as an art expression, adornment for fashion, and as a spiritual object.


Ghanaian Beads as Spiritual Objects

In some tribes of Ghana, beads are regarded as spiritual objects. The Krobo and Ashanti tribe wear wood and glass beads for protection against evil spirit. Some of these beads are passed from one generation to another; therefore, it is regarded as priceless and treasured object. The Ghanaian beads also come in different styles, but the most common of them are:


  • Krobo powder glass beads

The Krobo glass beads are likely to be the most popular African bead. The beads are made from the mixture of dye and powdered glass, poured into a mold, and heated. When cooled, the bead can be painted with the hands. When a girl becomes of age among the Krobo people, the glass beads are worn around her waist, neck, and wrists. The beads worn on the neck are used  to communicate her family affluence, wealth, and clan to her potential suitors.


  • Brass beads

The brass bead is known to be made in the old Ashanti Kingdom area in central Ghana. The beads are made through a wax mold and covered in clay. When the mold is heated and cools, each bead comes in unique shapes as a result of the processing technique used


  • Recycled glass beads

The beads are also called bottle glass beads and are made from old and broken bottles passed through fire and polished to make it very beautiful. The recycling process earned it the name.


  • Chevron beads

Chevron beads are known to be one of the most expensive beads and one of the commonly used beads in trading.