African waist beads were more common place a couple of generations earlier, certainly a lot more so than they are right now. There was, in fact, a rather innate fascination with waist beads that existed, especially for some younger women who longed to reach the age where they could adorn some. Hidden from view underneath the modest female clothes that were favored 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 figures. Traditional Ghanaian culture though, had a more practical usage, where the many strings of beads around the bikini line was employed as an anchor to strap the menstrual cloth.
Some other varied uses or significance of the waist beads include;
- As a symbol of femininity and sensuality, only the partner a woman chooses would have the honor of seeing them fully
- As a sign that a woman had reached marriageable age and could now have suitors
- Strung with bells, to show that a woman was still pure as at the time of marriage
- Worn on babies during naming ceremonies, some say; to accentuate their waist lines and hips as they grow
- As a weight measure; when gaining weight, the belt of the beads climb up and when you loose weight, it falls elegantly on the hips
- Upon addition of 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 behind 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. All we know is that waist beads when worn properly are beautiful things and since they have been around for quite a while, a lot of people evidently agree.