What are African Waist Beads?
Waist Beads are a customary accessory originating from several parts of Africa. African Waist beads are made of small glass blobs arranged on a string and are worn around one’s hips or waist. They are available in various shapes, sizes and colors and are made using a number of decorative charms, stones and crystals.
For centuries, women in a number of cultures in Western and Northern parts of Africa have worn waist beads. They became so popular that in recent years, they found their way to the Western part of the globe. Other terms used to describe waist beads include waistline beads, beaded waist chains and belly beads.
In countries such as Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Mali, Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and others in West Africa, waistline beads are used to symbolize sensuality, spiritual welfare, fertility and femininity. Nowadays, women in Africa and those in the United States wear waist beads to enhance their beauty and for practical reasons.
Nevertheless, they remain an intricate part of the African culture for several reasons. Some of the uses of waist beads are explained below.
Origin of Waist Beads
Many believe that the history of waist beads can be traced to Egypt as far back as the fifteenth century and was worn by women as a status symbol. In the Egyptian culture, waist beads are referred to as "girdles." In West Africa, historians believe that the tradition of waist beads may have originated among the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and extended to other parts of West Africa.
What are Waist Beads Used for?
When Ann was asked why she wanted to buy waist beads by her friend who wore them in different colors, her response only came in: "It appears everyone wears one and really, I admire yours."
Indeed just like Ann, many people may not have the idea that there are distinct and different reasons why beads are worn around the waist. As fashionable as it appears, in some parts of Africa, waist beads have specific histories, meanings, and symbols attached to them. While the present-day might refer to some as myths or superstitious, there are several reasons why waist beads are part of the African tradition.
- To Symbolize Sensuality and Femininity
Waist beads are commonly described as “femininity strands filled with color.” They are truly beautiful and appeal to every eye. There are beads for women of all age groups, body size and body type. The customary Ghanaian culture allows women to wear beads to symbolize their femininity, show off their wealth and for practical reasons such as anchoring clothes used during their monthly cycle.
Waist beads or belly beads are used as a tool of measurement or tracker in determining weight loss or weight gain. Africa waist beads are fitted to the size of the woman's abdomen and slight change in the usual position of the waist beads symbolizes a difference in weight. if you´re reducing size or weight, the beads on your waist will roll lower, and if you´re gaining weight, then they will become tighter. Keep in mind that African waist beads won't keep you slim miraculously they should be used as body trackers to remind you to control weight
- Adornment and Intimacy
Around the world, women use waist beads during intimate setups to enchant their lovers. Some believe that having them on improves their chances of conceiving during intimate relations. The Krobo and Ashanti communities of Ghana add bells and larger beads on waists to ensure that a woman notifies nearby suitors that she is fertile.
Others wear beads under their clothes so that only their lovers see them. Such waist beads are accompanied by special lingerie to make the moment special for their partners
In regions where waist beads have cultural attachments, they are used to show one’s growth and maturity. In some West African cultures, girls approaching adulthood are given a pair of waist beads by their mothers when they get their first period. Filling out a pair of waist beads may symbolize getting into another stage of life. In such cultures, the beads may have to be changed to signify that they are no longer in puberty.
- Improving Posture
When you wear waist beads, you become increasingly aware of your posture. Depending on whether you are leaning or sitting, the beads fit you in different ways. This notifies you whether you need to let your back or stomach muscles relax, sit straight or breathe in a different way.
Choosing the Right Waist Beads to Wear
There are three different types of beads to consider when choosing the right beads to wear.
- The Clasp Bead
- The Strand or Flexible Bead
- The Tie Bead
The clasp is perfect for that individual that just wants to take their beads off freely. If you don't want to have any restriction this would be your go to.
The Strand or Elastic
The Strand is perfect for the individual that moves around a lot or go to the gym a lot. It just moves with your body. Many people love this one as it´s elastic and easy to adjust.
The Tie on
The Tie on method happens to be the best one for weight loss. You are unable to actually take these waste beads off unless you cut them, so you track your progress by having your waste beads on 24/7. This for those that are serious with tracking their weight.
Waist Bead Colors and Stones
Waist beads are decorated in different colors to add beauty, and the colors are interpreted according to tribe, culture, or locality. It is important to know the meaning attributed to each color when choosing the right shade of beads.
Below are some colors and their meanings of African Waist Beads:
- White: purity, truth, and light
- Green: healing, prosperity, abundance, hope, and fertility, nature
- Blue: harmony, truth, insight, and loyalty
- Yellow: clarity, wisdom, joy, energy, and awareness
- Red: vitality, confidence, passion, and bravery
- Brown: earth and stability
- Purple: royalty, wisdom, and spirituality
- Pink: Care, beauty, love, and kindness
- Gold: Good health, Power, and wealth
- Black: Power and protection
- Turquoise: Communication and self-awareness
- Orange: Courage and vitality
The stones and charms used in making some of the African waist beads include:
- Quartz: means clarity, crystals enhancement
- Evil eye: protection against negativity or pessimism
- Hamsa: waving off evil or bad luck
- Rose quartz: love, healing, and compassion
- Green aventurine: luck, wealth, and prosperity
- Lapis lazuli: insight, peace, wisdom, and truth
Waist beads are best bought individually in an African market. There, you can be measured by the seller to know the actual size of waist beads that fit perfectly according to the body size or type. Suppose the quantity and quality of waist beads desired cannot be gotten at the market. In that case, the beads can be purchased on online stores inlcuding this one among many others.
Whether you bought the waist beads, received them as a gift or made them yourself, it is good to know how to enhance your look with them.
Waist beads can be donned under your clothes, or over them as a fashion statement. There isn’t much that can be said for waist beads hidden from view because they are only visible to a limited number of people or occasions such as when one is swimming in a suit that displays them.
If you decide to show off your waist beads, you could wear them with a high-cut top or around any other piece of clothing that doesn’t display your bare waist line. Either way, an attractive waist bead strand will get you noticed and make you feel good about yourself. It also tells others that you love your body in its shape and size and are bold enough to display it.
While measuring your waist size, opt for a tape or string instead of clothes that have manufacturer’s sizes. Get the measurement on your bare skin and wrap the tape snugly.
As African waist beads are personal items worn by individuals for many reasons, the emphasis has been placed on its sensitivity towards fertility, heritage, and cultural identification. Its popularity continues to grow in other African countries and beyond as more and more women are are using it to accentuate their femininity.