When I was a little child, my grandmother adorned my waist with beads she made herself. According to her, it helped shape a girl child’s hips and buttocks. I enjoyed wearing it because whenever I took a step, it dangled on my waist, making sounds that made me want to keep walking. At that stage of my life, this fascinated me and somehow, I believed in the benefits of African waist beads.
To show how much I believed grandma, I kept on wearing the one she gave to me up until my waist outgrew it. If anyone asked me then why I always had it on my waist as a child, I’d tell them, “my grandma said it will help me look like a woman when I grow up.” Well, what did I know?
Even after I outgrew the one my granny gave me, I got my mom to buy me another one because I knew as a child that this traditional African accessory had much benefits for women. I will share the benefits of African waist beads with you in this article. If you hitherto had a wrong notion about this ornament like some people do for anklets, get ready to have a change of mind after reading this post.
What are Waist Beads?
Also referred to as beaded waist chains, belly beads or waistline beads, waist beads are very sensual accessories for women. They comprise small beads of different colours and shapes on a wire or string worn around the waist or hips. Some of them have crystals or other decorative stones on them. They are designed to flatter a woman’s waist, hips and belly.
Different tribes have different names for this ornament. In Nigeria for instance, Yoruba people call it Ibebe-Idi or Ileke-Idi, Igbo people call it Mgbaji while the Hausas call it Jigida.
Origin of African Waist Beads
While there’s no particular history to show the exact origin of waist beads, historians believe that its existence dates back to the 15th century in Africa.
For many centuries, West African women wore this ornament long before it became mainstream in the Western world. Back then, women in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and other West African countries wore it to symbolise fertility, sensuality, spirituality, healing, body shaping, femininity, wealth and protection.
Also, as part of the Ghanaian tradition, suitors gave beads in the form of bracelets, anklets, necklaces and waist beads to their brides. And some Ghanaian women believe that wearing multiple beads around their waist helps trim their waist while promoting their hips.
Benefits of African Waist Beads
Women of all body types can wear it for ornamental purposes. Some women simply wear this accessory because they want to look trendy and sexy. While these are part of the benefits of African waist beads, the ornament also offers more importance. They include:
One of the benefits of African waist beads is that it is used to indicate maturity. For example, In some African tradition, mothers attach beads around their daughters waist to show their evolution into womanhood upon their first menstruation.
Also, some Ghanaians wear babies beads around their waist during naming ceremonies. And when the babies outgrow it, it shows they have transitioned into another phase of their life. This is similar to my illustration about the one my grandmother gave to me. When I outgrew them, it showed I was no longer a baby girl who got fascinated by the sounds of beads around her waist. Rather, I was becoming conscious of my femininity.
2. Means of Livelihood
To those who produce and distribute this accessory, it has served as a means of making money. African waist beads have provided jobs for bead artists, distributors, models, photographers and even writers. As the demand for it increases and the controversy surrounding it circulates, people tend to get interested in the ornament and want to know more about it. However, not everyone would want to admit this to themselves.
3. Weight Consciousness
Rather than stepping on a scale every time, you can use these beads to monitor your weight and know if there’s a gain or a loss. Since it doesn’t stretch, you can easily know when you put on weight as it’ll sit tighter around your waist. On the other hand, if you lose weight, the beads will feel loose around it.
Furthermore, if you don’t want a change in the way your beads fit, you can go for adjustable ones so if you lost or put on weight, you’d adjust the ornament to fit you perfectly.
And that’s not all. It also helps to be aware of your stomach and sitting posture. It can serve as a reminder to correct your sitting posture and exercise the muscles in your stomach.
4. Boosts Sexual Attraction and Satisfaction
This is very common among the benefits of African waist beads. Back in the day, while women hid their beads underneath their garments, some men gaped in fascination whenever the beads infrequently snuck out.
This accessory while beautifying the waist increases a woman’s sensuality and makes her more appealing to the opposite sex. Although not every man likes waist beads, it is an undeniable fact that mere seeing the beads on a woman’s waist sends different thoughts running through the mind of the opposite gender. Knowing this, women harness their beads to seduce their sexual partners.
Furthermore, it plays a role during lovemaking. Once an acquaintance told me that the sounds this accessory makes while he relishes his partner is enough to triple their libido. Some run their fingers on the beads during foreplay as a way of prolonging the moment. All these at the end not only assure sexual attraction but also give satisfaction too.
Many women wear it for decorative purposes. Since they are always colourful and enticing, it serves as an accessory or even a piece of jewelry just like earrings, necklaces, wristwatches and bracelets. If a dancer dressed in a crop top and a bum short, for instance, adds waist beads to the equation, her body looks more appealing and lithe.
Black women in diaspora wear it as a way of connecting with their ancestral heritage. Since they lack adequate knowledge of their African lineage due to slave trade, this accessory affords them an opportunity to feel ‘at home’.
How to Wear Waist Beads
It’s very simple to wear this accessory. Some come with a fastener you can clasp together at the edge so you just wrap the beads around your waist and fasten it. Others come with an elastic or stretchy string, you can easily slip on your waist. However, there are permanent ones that are neither stretchy nor have fasteners. So once you wear them, you can’t take them off unless you break or cut them.
Myths about African Waist Beads and Witchcraft
Among the many wrong notions of this accessory is its linkage to black magic. Some people see it as a fetish ornament used against the opposite gender. For instance, a friend of mine recounted to me how she saw some ladies on social media testifying about the efficacy of some beads they bought from a certain lady. According to them, it helped to attract suitors to them.
Also, some people believe African waist beads offer protection and healing to the wearers. This is achieved when the bead artists incorporate elements such as crystals, chakra healing, charms or special oils into their design.
While these myths are becoming rampant, they are yet to be proven and as such do not at all mean that these ornaments are diabolic. It is a trend that has come to stay and will only evolve as time goes on. Hence, if you feel like you should wear this accessory, go ahead and do it. Shun the unproven myths about it and focus on the ample benefits of African waist beads. Remember that although this accessory is a simple one, it can transform you, elevating you from plain Jane to sexy Nicki. It is an African way to look modernly sexy.