By Alloysius Nduka Duru
THE use of beads especially waist beads in Nigeria is widespread across the various nationalities that make up the nation. There are similarities and peculiarities in their usage. However, the Yorubas developed the most varying and peculiar uses for waist beads. The Yorubas have developed a culture of bead usage that cuts across both material and spiritual aspects of the life of the people. In addition, they have also the capacity to produce the beads for varying purposes ranging from royalty, body adornment, deification and decoration.
The Yorubas are found in the southwest geopolitical delineation of present-day Nigeria. They are a vibrant and social people who accentuate their way of life in their day-to-day activities.
Beads are usually small round piece of glass, wood, metal or nut, pierced for stringing. They are either used for adornment such as the waist, neck, ankle or as decorative ornament in art work or even for royalty.
The art of beading is serial in process and serrated in composition. It has a step-by-step or one-by-one approach in stringing and when traded together, the beads stand for unity, togetherness and solidarity.
Beads of the waist are believed to posses the power to attract and evoke deep emotional responses; they are a sign of success and affluence as well as spiritual well being.
The origin of the Nigerian beads is still speculative due to its fragility portability and popularity.
Beads have been traded and used since time immemorial. However, the earliest known African beads are traced to Libya and Sudan. In Nigeria, the Nok terracottes and Igb Ukwu art display the use of beads in those societies as early as 500 B.C., however there is no concrete statement of origin to the beads.
A common usage of the item is for adornment especially on the waist. There is however varying purpose for which people adorn the waist beads.
Waistbeads are mostly worn by women folk, only in exceptional theatrical perform will a man adorn waistbeads to symbolize feminism. The waistbeads are synonymous with feminism.
The Yorubas have esteemed usage attached to the waistbeads. They refer to the waist bead as Ileke, “lagidigba” the term lagidigba means something big, thick or massive. The lagidigba is made of palm nut shells string together, while the bebe is made of glass.
The Yorubas have a belief that the waist beads posses some erotic appeal; they have the power to provoke desire or deep emotional response on the opposite sex.
Waist beads are also used by the Yoruba for birth control; the beads are laced with charms and worn by the women to prevent conception.
Beads are a precious ornaments to the Yorubas, hence when adorned by a women, accentuates her feminism or beauty. Beads also helps to portray the chastity of a maiden or women sensuality. Parent show their love for their girl child through gifts of waist beads that are colourful and expensive.
The lagidigba or palm nut shell beads is used for fecundity purposes. The nuts signify multiple births as they are in clusters, thus one can infer the high incidence of multiple births in Yoruba land to the usage of the lagidigba bead.
Brides seduce their spouses with the beads they adorn; some women are said to lace their beads with charms to make them irresistible to the male folks. The Yorubas can easily comment on a women’s moral standing by interpretation of the movement of the waist bead she wears. The way she moves her buttocks can depict her morals as either seductive or reserved.
The Yorubas have a popular saying: “It is the beads that makes the buttocks to shake.”
Other users of the waist beads in Yoruba land are the Orisas or devotes of water deities and other priestesses, they adorn the waist beads for protection against spiritual attacks as well as part of their dress regalia.
Saturday, April 25, 2009