In Namibia, Waistbeads Are More Than Ornaments

BY CLEMENCE TASHAYAMusicians_and_dancers_on_fresco_at_Tomb_of_Nebamun

EENHANA, Namibia — Waistbeads date back to ancient Egypt, where painting of dancers wearing the beads appear on tombs walls, according to a former educationist, historian and now a pensioner here in Ohangwena region.

The tradition has since spread through several continents and centuries to include women in various cultures, including Namibia. According to Meme Paulina Omaholo, this cultural practice is also in the United States of America. Waistbeads have a number of different purposes and perhaps even more different styles. She says waistbeads can be very simple or incredibly elaborate. Beads can be of any size and material, including glass stone, clay and sandalwood or other material. Some African women add fragrant oil to their beads, Omaholo notes, while mostly the Namibian Oshiwambo women add gems and crystal to add healing properties.

Most Oshiwambo cultures wear at least two or more strands of waist beads, although an even number of strands brings bad luck in some other cultures in Namibian regions such as the Damara/Nama, Silozi and Tswana tribes. African women have traditionally worn waistbeads beneath their clothing, yet other cultures proudly display the beads over their clothes or on bare midriffs.

Waistbeads can serve as a symbol of femininity. The beads were an integral part of all African women initiation lodges and ceremonies in the old dynasties, according to the Oshiwambo tradition and culture. Young females began to wearbeads when they started to menstruate, marking their passage from girlhood to womanhood. “The beads may have also served as a kind of belt onto which the ‘monthly cloth’ was attached,” Omaholo adds.

In other areas, waistbeads are gifts to young women about to marry, according to Omaholo. “Women of other regions in Africa wear the beads while pregnant or use the beads in foreplay to entice their husbands as in the Zambezi region here in Namibia and as well as in Malawi, Zambia and other parts of Angola and Zimbabwe. Others start to wear the beads as young girls after receiving a set as a baby gift.

African folklore gives waist beads special powers, Lungowe Simataa from the Zambezi region says. The beads, worn to define the waist, help hold their shape. They also serve to help women hold onto their mate. Protection is another function of the beads, as they encircle the body and close off the circuits of energy. “Wearers are thus protected from obsessive thoughts, negative spirits and even vampires,” Simataa adds.

Ornamentation is a major role for waistbeads. In the Zambezi region and other cultures in West Africa, the beads served to transform women into “walking charms,” she says. “Since beads were considered money all over Africa, waistbeads were both ornamentation as well as dowry in matriarchal societies. A husband-to-be would give his bride to be a set of waistbeads accompanied by beads for her neck, arms, wrists and ankles.

Throughout parts of the world, Simataa notes, waist beads were worn for aesthetics, largely considered an item of beauty.

Waistbeads have a long history in Africa and they have also filtered into other cultures. Belly dancers in Far Eastern cultures have embraced the beads as have women of Islamic cultures. They prominently display the beads during their dances, while some wear them beneath their clothes.

Reprinted from:

For Men: The Sensual Waistbeads Woman



If you think waistbeads are for ladies only. Think again.

Although I have created waistbeads for a man – I’ll get to that in a minute – please consider that the waistbeads your woman wears is as much for your pleasure as it is for hers. In a sense they are the perfect gift: beautiful, spiritual, cultural and lovingly reciprocal. When she wears waistbeads for herself, she’s giving you a gift; when she wears waistbeads for you, she’s giving a gift to herself.  And while the same can be said for other types of  jewelry, few have the same sensual appeal as waistbeads.

Here’s what waistbeads do for you:

1) They make your woman FEEL more beautiful as the energy of the gemstones exerts a subtle positive influence.

2) They make your woman LOOK more beautiful; waistbeads are stunningly seductive along the curves of her body; against the glow of her skin.

3) Gemstone waistbeads add to her spiritual armor, protecting her and keeping her safe from negativity when you are not around. And if she is pregnant, her waistbeads are literally guarding your family.

4) They are a part of your racial memory. The oldest African jewelry ever discovered was recently found in 2004, in the Blombos cave on the southern tip of South Africa.  They are 40 mollusc shell beads that had been pierced and were  estimated  over 75 000 years old.  Women are seen wearing waistbeads on the walls of the pyramids in Egypt, but it’s hard to say when they were first introduced into our culture. However, it’s certain they have always played a large role in seduction and romance between the sexes. Even today.  The Nation, a newspaper of the Republic of  Malawi, recently discussed the merits of waistbeads among market woman, who opined that every young woman should have waistbeads to keep her husband aroused during foreplay. They went on to describe the hidden meanings of waistbeads colors, from black, which means “not tonight I have a headache,” to blue and green, meaning “all systems are go.”



In her book, “Sacred Woman,”  Queen Afua  writes among the 17th century Saramaka, a woman would send her  scented waistbeads off with her husband as a symbol of her intended fidelity when he went away for long periods of time. That certainly beats a photo on your cellphone.

5) From a dozen years experience in this craft, I kid you not when I say there few woman who are not moved when her man selects and purchases a set of waistbeads for her. It is more creative than flowers, sexier than lingerie, and more personal than most other jewelry.

As you can see the benefits are multiple. For superior quality and beauty, try Wrap and Soul gemstone waistbeads.

For those of you who are wondering whether a man can wear waistbeads – yes, I do get asked that question – the answer is: It depends.

I was once talked into making waistbeads for a very persistent older brother. He selected the beads and stones, the symbols, gave me his measurements and drew up the design. I knew that some African men do wear beads and belts around their waists, so the concept was not completely strange to me. But, as I pointed out to him, those men wore little or no clothing at all. The idea of waistbeads UNDER modern pants or jeans, seemed a little odd.

Nevertheless I made them, presented them to him and he was thrilled.

A month later I met him on the street with his waistbeads on – around his neck! When I commented on his “necklace,” he looked at me rather sheepishly. “As waistbeads, they just kept getting in the way,” he said.

I replied:   “That’s because the real pleasure you get from waistbeads is from the woman who’s wearing them.”

Adinkra Waistbeads

Dwennimmen Waistbeads; Strength through humility

In my exploration of my history and culture, one of the more fascinating aspects for me has been the re-discovery of adinkra symbolism.  The adinkra is a symbol representing a concept, phrase or proverb, elegantly packaged in a single hieroglyph. It is a wonderful supplement to our history of oral story-telling; illustrators and giots working together to teach life’s lessons.

Originally, adinkras were used during rituals, on cloth in respect for the dead and mourning, for example, or to honor royalty.  But eventually adinkras became a ubiquitous part of the culture, carved into walls and architecture, fabrics and pottery. The oldest known fabric rendering of an adinkra was found in 1817 and was most certainly created long before that.

Today we see adinkras through-out African-American neighborhoods, on T-shirts, body art,  jewelry.  Some of us have seen the symbols without really understanding what they mean or the genius minds behind them. But students of the culture are often quite taken by the symbols as they carry special meaning to the children of the African Diaspora.

For instance, the sankofa symbol, which can be either a stylized heart or a bird looking over its shoulder, means “return and get it,”  emphasizing the importance of learning from the past.

Sankofa Waistbeads; Learn from the past

The “gye nyame” is  another popular and visually arresting symbol. According to,  the gye nyame represents the supremacy of God; God is all.

Gye Nyame Waistbeads, God is all

My personal favorite is  “Duafe,”  the wooden comb, representing beauty and femininity. The comb resembles an afro pick from the Sixties.

Duafe Waistbeads; Beauty and femininity

As always, these symbols can be found on WRAP AND SOUL waistbeads, adding special significance to these adornments. Walk in beauty and power!




Amber, one of my favorite adornments, is actually not a stone but a sticky, fossilized tree resin. Amber often contains animal and plant material known as inclusions and comes in a wide a range of colors from translucent from the Dominican Republic to brown, orange and yellow from the Baltics to deep, black from India.

It is considered the first substance to be used as a form of adornment and amber beads have been found in northern European gravesites as old as 8000 BC.

The formation of amber is a natural phenomenon that takes millions of years.Since it originates as a soft, tree resin, amber often contains animal and plant material as inclusions. The first amber fossils from the African continent- the northwestern plateau in Ethiopia- were discovered two years ago, revealing a snapshot of life 95 million years ago and giving clues to the evolution of animals and plants.

Because amber is warm to the touch, is associated with longevity and often contains life,it has been considered sacred by many cultures. It is contains the element of fire, and is governed by the sun. Through the years, humans have worn amber for luck, healing, strength, protection, love and beauty. In Greek mythology, amber was thought to be solidified teardrops or the essence of the sun’s rays. Ancient European painters used the color amber to denote the divine and faces of gods and goddesses, heroes and saints were all painted in amber. Africans believed amber has healing powers because of its warm colors that capture the sunshine with brightness and robustness.

African amber or copal, is not as old the true amber. Copal is semi-fossilized or younger. It is found mainly in Zanzibar Island, Morocco, Kenya, and Mali. However, just as it reflects the beauty of true amber, copal also carries its mysteries and power of true amber.

Infuse your aura with the enigmatic mysteries of amber. Check out these waistbeads in amber and other gemstones from Wrap and Soul.

Lapis Lazuli

I’ve visited Khemet (Egypt) three times and each time I was intrigued by the evidence that remains of the ancient Egyptians’ fascination with gemstones. Of course, we all know of the splendid treasures that were taken from the tombs of these ancestors – the gold from Tutankhamen’s tomb alone is estimated to be worth over 2 Billion Euros. But as I wandered through the Valley of the Kings and the Cairo Museum, I wondered if certain semi-precious stones, especially lapis lazuli which could be seen everywhere, were not held in regard for more than decorative purposes.

Lapis is a deep blue opaque stone imbedded with flecks of gold or white. It was extremely popular in ancient Egypt as the beautiful color symbolized the water of the Nile and the night sky.  Among many of King Tutankhamen’s treasures, this beautiful stone is front and center, including all over his famous golden mask; in its inlaid blue stripes of the headdress and around the eyes.

Lapis was also ground into a pigment and used to enhance the seductive eyes of Queen Cleopatra. But with typical Khemet genius, what was used for adornment, was also practical medicine. Lapis lazuli was considered protection for eyes. Necklaces were hung around the neck of sick children for protection. The stone was also associated with the Egyptian sky goddess, Nut; the goddess of balance and truth, Maat; and Ra, the sun god.

After these strong connections were established, through the ages the stone became known for attracting to its wearers the energy of healing, love and fidelity, protection and joy.

But for me, lapis will always be the stone of ancient Khemet.They wore it in their jewelry, used it as their medicine, worshipped with it and buried it in their tombs.

Check out these lovely quartz and lapis waist beads, Wrap and Soul’s homage to the Egyptian sky goddess, Nut.



Whenever I work with mother-of-pearl I feel very fortunate. I love its smooth texture, its creamy color and delicate iridescence. Mother-of-pearl, like many substances that come from the ocean, has  long been associated with wealth and abundance, peace and patience. Pearls are the adornments linked to Auset (Isis), Venus and Aphrodite, goddesses of moon and water, revered for their great feminine beauty.

Pearls symbolize innocence,  motherhood, patience, personal integrity, love, money, protection and luck.

I have a special affinity to mother-of-pearl because I associate it with Auset, who was known in ancient Khemet as The Great Mother, queen of the gods and mother of Heru.  I saw Auset myself depicted on the walls of the tombs during a trip to Egypt. With a baby at her breast, an ankh over her head and a fierce look in her eye, she reminded me that we may live in different times, but we are her daughters, still commanding respect for our bodies and our children.

Mother-of-pearl also conjures up visions of Yemaya, the beautiful African goddess of the sea. Yemaya is an orisha of the Yoruba religion. Africans brought their beliefs in Yemaya/Yemoja and other deities with them when they were captured and brought to the shores of the Caribbean and Americas. Yemaya represents  the ocean and everything in it. She is the essence of motherhood and  protector of children.

In India, pearls are worn in ensure happy wedded unions. In China, they are associated with dragons and good luck. In some regions of Europe, it was believed that pearls drew to its wearers the female characteristics of creativity and nurturing. In the South Pacific, they are worn by swimmers as protection shark attacks.

Wrap and Soul mother-of-pearl African waist beads carry the energy of the folklore of these people. Out of  respect, the waistbeads are always crafted with charms that are symbols of the sea and beads to enhance the pretty ivory color. Some  mother-of-pearl waist beads are also surrounded by lapis lazuli, which is the deep blue stone of Yemaya.

Select your own mother-of-pearl waistbeads now!

Rose Quartz

Rose quartz is the crystal of love and romance, and not just because of its pretty, pale pink color which is associated with calm, beauty and feminine energies. Rose quartz stimulates the heart chakra from which all human emotion flows, the center health and wellness. When the heart chakra is properly balanced, you will experience peace, focus, kindliness and compassion for others.

Rose quartz, a clear translucent stone, is best known for its ability to improve self-love, attract love, and improve fidelity in marriage or existing relationships.  In her book, “Sacred Woman.” Queen Afua recommends the use of rose quartz  during rituals for sacred relationships, and she associates the stone with Maat, the Khemitan guardian of wisdom.

In ancient lore, rose quartz  was soaked in elixirs which women drank for a more youthful, beautiful appearance.  It has been used in human adornment for over 4,000 years.

Above all, it is the stone of universal love and forgiveness.

Sankofa waist beads

Wearing  Wrap and Soul rose quartz waistbeads is a wonderful way to infuse your aura with the energies of this powerful stone.

Quartz is the second only to fieldspar in abundance within the earth’s crust. Rose quartz gets its distinctive color from traces of  titanium, iron, or manganese. Other semi-precious quartz-based gemstones include amethyst, citrine and smoky quartz.

Rose quartz is  found throughout the world, including the USA. But the best examples of this stone are found in Brazil.

For more rose quartz waist beads go to  Wrap and Soul.