Adinkra Waist Beads

Here’s a little story about the power of adinkra symbols.
About two years ago, a young woman came to visit me to purchase some waist beads. As she viewed the selection, she became excited when she saw a set of amethyst waist beads adorned with the gye nyame adinkra symbol. “What’s this?” she asked.
I explained an adinkra is a West African symbol, and each one presents a cultural message or wisdom. The gye nyame represents the power of Spirit with the message, “I fear no one but God.”
“Wow,” said young woman. “I never knew that!”
She then showed me the gye nyame she had tattooed on her shoulder! “You got that tattoo without knowing what it meant?” I asked, amazed.
“I got it about 6 months ago and the artist wasn’t sure of its meaning
,” she replied. “But I was drawn to it. I just liked the way it looked.” The adinkra’s meaning couldn’t have been revealed at a more appropriate time because she was experiencing a life-threatening illness and needed her courage.
Somehow our ancestors knew.

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Click here for adinkra waistbeads by Wrap and Soul

Waistbeads Among The Yoruba


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.46b8_2

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


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:

Waistbeads: An Age-Old Tradition, A Modern Trend



It might just be the prettiest trend you’ll never see.

Oh, you might get a peek now and then. Tica Bowden says she spies glimpses of color all the time lately, as a woman leans over a certain way and the glistening glow of her African waist beads makes a coy cameo appearance.

They’re everywhere, but “they’re not for show,” said Bowden, owner of Creative Waist Beads by Journey Armon (her children’s names) in Oakland. “In African tradition, waist beads are meant to be worn under clothing,” she said. “They’re for you. It’s personal. The meaning of the colors varies with every tribe — it’s kind of like visual dialects. And here in America it’s certainly a form of personal expression and individual interpretation. They’re for all women — any body type, any race, any background.”

Think of them as colorful strands of femininity — vibrant glass or clay beads, gemstones, pieces of horn, shells and sometimes gold or silver fittings, strung together by hand and tailored to embrace a woman’s individual midsection.

Yet they’re more than just pretty baubles. The hues — and the reasons for wearing them — bear myriad meanings and a modicum of mystery and folklore. While the practice dates back centuries in various regions of Africa, even depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics and taking on different interpretations in other cultures, it has become increasingly popular in the United States during the past couple of years. Now waist beads are often sold at house parties and bridal showers in the style of Tupperware and Mary Kay — a sign they’ve clearly taken on trend status in American culture.

Ndeya Berryman of Waist Beads by Ndeya in East Palo Alto gives two to six house parties per month.

“(They’re) addictive,” Berryman said. “I’ve had women who get one strand then quickly come back for more.”


A big reason for the modern popularity of waist beads is the sense of empowerment they provide over an area of the female form that’s often a source of physical discomfort or embarrassment over extra pounds.

“Most women have an issue with their middle section, and the last thing they want to do is draw more attention to that area,” said Sewra Kidane of Waist Beads by Sewra, who has been wearing and making the jewelry since 1999. She sells the beads at art shows all around the country and has a booming online business. “By putting on something very beautiful and adorning that area, you accept your body more, appreciate the beauty of it.”

Berryman says the beads are a wonderful way to combat the unrealistic body images women see in magazines and on fashion runways.

“So many things in the media are telling us not to be happy with who — and what shape — we are,” she said. Berryman started wearing beads in 2005 — a gift after her second child was born — and they immediately increased her self-confidence.

“I have stretch marks, and I don’t have the perfect body,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter if someone else doesn’t think I have the perfect shape. (The beads) honor that shape. Our midsection is our center of balance. We need to be aware of the womb area. We carry a lot of miracles in that section.”


She now sells beads to women with waistlines from 20 to 65 inches and of all ages — from young women to clients in their 60s and 70s.

During an interview at her home studio last week, Bowden tugged up her tank top to reveal several strands of vibrant greens and blues swirling about her waist — colors that, to her, symbolize growth, humankind’s connection to the land and her own African heritage.

Historians believe the African tradition of waist beads may have originated among the Yoruba tribes, now mainly in Nigeria. But the practice is also seen in West Africa, notably Ghana, where the beads signify wealth and aristocracy, as well as femininity. Waist beads are also found in other cultures, and while African and Islamic women typically keep them under wraps, some display the beads over their clothes or on bare midriffs, such as belly dancers in Eastern cultures.

Beads, which are typically worn at all times — even while bathing or sleeping — can serve as symbols of sensuality, fertility and rites of passage, passed down from mother to daughter. There are superstitions about pregnancy and the energies of the Earth. Some see them as conveyors of positive energy and healing. Some wear them strictly for fashion. And still others choose them for the very practical use of weight control — when your beads are getting a little tight, it’s time to back off that blueberry muffin.

Jinina Knox, 40, of Oakland, a nurse who works with autistic children, bought her first set of beads a couple of years ago when Berryman gave a presentation at a bridal shower. Knox, not a small woman, loves the idea that the beads embrace all sizes, defying media images of what’s beautiful.

“I felt sexy the moment I put them on,” she said. “They are definitely not just for the skinny woman. You go walking naked past a mirror and see this gorgeous jewelry hanging on you. It makes you feel beautiful. They’re for the confident, vivacious woman, whatever size she is.”

What they mean

While the colors in African waist beads are open to interpretation, some traditions equate certain qualities to various hues:

Blue: knowledge, healing, peace, truth, harmony — a cooling color symbolizing faith, devotion, deep insight.
Green: prosperity, hope, harmony, healing and ripening, encouraging the wearer to love nature and be generous, humble and self-controlled.
Red: self-confidence, vitality, sexual energy, passion, courage.
Yellow: wisdom, knowledge, clarity, increasing awareness and calming nerves.

Angela Hill, Oakland Tribune.  7/31/12 San Jose Mercury News






Celebrate Black Love Day

Celebrate Black Love Day Feb. 14

The centerpiece of these beautiful aquamarine waistbeads is the heart-shaped African adinkra symbol, the Sankofa. In the Akan language of Ghana, Sanfoka translates to “go back and take,” and the word is often linked to the proverb, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This phrase holds special meaning for the people of the African Diaspora.
Pale blue-green aquamarine was popular among the ancient Egyptians, they believed the stone was a symbol of happiness and eternal youth.

The heart shape and the special significance makes it the perfect gift for Black Love Day – St. Valentine’s. One of a kind! Only $25.


Ubuntu! South Africa Waist Beads


South Africa has been on my mind lately, and specifically, a beautiful word used by President Obama during his tribute at Nelson Mandela’s memorial; Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a Southern African concept meaning “humanity toward others.” Translated, it means “human kindness.”

“He not only embodied ubuntu,” Obama said of the iconic freedom fighter. “He taught millions to find that truth within themselves.”

I could not think of a greater legacy.

These waistbeads, inspired by the spirit of ubuntu, are strung with seedbeads in the six colors of the South African flag and studded with obsidian chips. Obsidian is a grounding, peace-drawing and protective stone.

It also features pewter ornate beads, faceted glass crystal beads and is  centered by a pewter medallion with two hands clasping a heart.

These one-of-a-kind  waistbeads are 33 inches long with six inches of adjustable chain with a pewter Africa medallion dangle. If that’s not your size don’t be discouraged, size reductions or adjustments with added chain up to 43 inches are free. All Wrap and Soul pewter charms are lead-free.

Only $25.00.

Click here for these ubuntu waist beads and more!

Peace¸.•*¨`☥ ☾ 



Custom Waistbeads By Wrap And Soul

Between festivals and online sales, at times I get so busy I run low on stock at the Wrap and Soul shop at So I was thrilled to discover that instead of becoming disappointed, many of my customers turned to my Custom Waistbeads service, giving me the opportunity to co-design with them and creating special beads that meet their specific needs.
If you would like certain gemstones or symbols on your waistbeads, for aesthetic or spiritual reasons, but find that what you desire is not available at the Wrap and Soul shop, I will work with you to make it happen. In fact, I will be honored.
For me, making this special jewelry is a calling that I take very seriously. In our ancestral villages and towns, there were women who strung waistbeads for the local girls for each milestone in their lives. They all  knew each other, and the women knew what colors. patterns and beads would be appropriate for each girl’s age, status and disposition.
Our “village” today is a lot larger, but if you give me the information, you can still get those special hand-selected touches.  All Wrap and Soul waistbeads are one-of-a-kind, so with each piece you are get a unique work of  functional art, as well as history and culture.  As you view the selection on the site, notice the waistbeads that catch your eye, the set you keep staring at, and going back to. That’s the one for you. For whatever reason, you need the energy of those crystals. It works every time.
However, if you have something specific in mind, and decide you want Wrap and Soul custom beads, here are the steps for c0-designing a set with me.
First, go the the left side menu of the Wrap and Soul website. Under “Shop Info” you’ll see the number of sales.  The number changes all the time: Today it says “247 Sales.” Click that link, and all of my previously sold waistbeads will be displayed.  Right now, that’s 11 pages of designs.
Scroll through the sold waistbeads to get an idea of the crystals and symbols in my inventory. If you see a set you like, click it for a larger view and to get my description of the properties of the crystals. Note, there are five photographs for each item. Click those on too!
From that vast selection, you can decide which crystals and symbols you would like on your custom waistbeads. Email your ideas to me and I’ll give you feedback. We will co-design! I will make suggestions on your color selection, symbols etc.
About cost: Generally, for a custom design that’s a spin on one of my previously sold creations, I charge only $5 more. about $30, plus shipping. That would be for the standard length of up to 43 inches, with all crystals and symbols in stock.
If you are requesting a crystal that I don’t normally use or that is out of stock, I will order it for you. However, if it is expensive I may pass the cost on to you or suggest  a less expensive version with the same properties/color. The same goes for symbols that are not in my inventory. But I’m always open to suggestions and I’ll work with you.
If you need custom waistbeads that are longer than 43 inches, I will create that also, adding another $5 more to the cost.
I do require a deposit of 50 percent of the cost before I start the project. When the waistbeads are completed, I post photos of them in my shop, reserved under your first name so you can take a look at them before final payment.reservedlisting
After you okay them, you make the final payment and I ship them out to you.  You receive them, open the package and fall in love!!