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/

For Men: The Sensual Waistbeads Woman

Brothers:

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.”

      Hmmmmmm.

 

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.”