Waistbeads Among The Yoruba

FROM: ngrguardiannews.com

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: http://allafrica.com/

Wear Your Waistbeads in Comfort!

Wear Your Waistbeads in Comfort!

Although they are called WAIST beads, they are most comfortable worn under the belly, about where bikini bottoms would sit on your hips! This way, they can be worn under your clothes or exposed against the skin.

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 – they are 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 the gemstones exudes 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 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 are 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 women, who opined that every young woman should have waistbeads to keep her husband aroused during foreplay. In the article, the women went on 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 people, a woman would give her  scented waistbeads to 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 are few women who would not be moved when a 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 adinkra.org,  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!




Green is the color of spring, nature, life and new beginnings. My favorite green stone is malachite because its opaque, multi-tone gradations remind me of the treetops of a forest or newly- cut lawn. It’s an added bonus that like most green stones, beautiful malachite is associated with wealth and success, which is excellent for entrepreneurs, business and career women. Whenever I’m selling my waist beads at a craft show or vending event, it’s always empowering to wear my malachite waist beads! And if that’s not enough, malachite is a healing stone, a symbol of creativity and transformation, and it corresponds to the heart chakra, making a way for peaceful, loving relationships.

So, let’s see. That’s money, love, health and peace. What more can a woman ask for?

Generally, malachite is a bright leaf green or dark olive stone with black or yellow bands, like agates. It was named after the mallow, one of the earliest healing plants mentioned in recorded literature. From ancient times to the 1800s, malachite was used to give paint its green pigment. Malachite was used as a mineral pigment in green paints from antiquity until about 1800. It is mined from Russia, Africa, Western Europe, Mexico, Israel and Arizona in the U.S.

Wrap and Soul Malachite Waistbeads

Malachite Waistbeads

In addition to bringing wearers business success, malachite also helps you avoid unsavory financial deals. It is believed to guards travelers from accidents and protect children. In her book “Sacred Woman,” Queen Afua associates malachite with the spiritual aspect Het-Heru, and recommends that pregnant women wear the stone to shield the unborn child. In the days of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the stone was ground up and mixed with ground lapis lazuli as eye shadow. It was also used in amulets and jewelry.

 Because of its beautiful green color, malachite has a calming, restful energy. It works with the central chakra, the heart. Its vibration allows you to expand and grow, enhancing health and spiritual dimensions. Excellent for attracting love into your life.

This is a wonderful stone for women and perfect to add to your waist beads. Try to stay aware of the energy of the stones that you are placing around your body. Keep your spirit light and vibration high!


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.