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:

New! Design Your Own Wrap & Soul Waistbeads


Introducing Wrap and Soul Custom Waistbeads Center.

Have you ever wished you could take the colors of THAT set of waistbeads and the gemstones of THOSE waistbeads and create your own special set?

Yeah, you’re not alone. So many women are asking for their own unique Wrap and Soul waistbeads that I’ve decided to try to accommodate you all! For a limited time, you will have a chance to design your own set of gemstone waistbeads. I only ask that you be patient while I make them, and that you communicate with me as much as possible so we both have the same understanding of what you desire. After the waistbeads have been created, they will be photographed and posted to my secure online shop for you to inspect and purchase (

Just follow the steps below and if you have any additional questions,  write me at




Design your own waistbeads in 3 easy steps:

1) Choose one semi-precious gemstone from the following selection: aquamarine, rose quartz, amethyst, carnelian, citrine, lapis lazuli or garnet. For more than one gemstone please email/convo me at

2) Using a tape-measure in inches, measure your body where you want your waistbeads to fall. Be mindful that waistbeads are most comfortable under your belly, about where bikini bottoms would sit on your hips. Your waistbeads will be made to fit your precise measurements. You can request your waistbeads with or without an adjustable extension chain.

3) Email all information to me at Your waistbeads will be created with seedbeads, glass beads and pewter beads that complement the gemstones you have selected. Choose gold or silver pewter beads.  Important Note: Your custom waistbeads will NOT have a center pendant unless you email me with a special request.