African Belly Beads

Today was an exciting day for Banou, because it would mark a great occasion for her. In a matter of hours, she would have lit another candle in her young life.

It’s my birthday! the excited thought came. She was grinning from ear to ear and finding it very hard not to laugh.

It was such a wonderful day to her not because she was growing older, but because she could finally take a very special of her heritage and embrace it, then make it a part of her.

In Banou’s hands was a string of beautiful and colored waist beads made of clay, cowrie shells, amber and other stones she could arguably identify.

The waist beads were a gift from her grandmother back in South Africa, and it was unlike anything she had ever owned. Banou had learnt a long time ago that waist beads in Africa were not just your average fashion accessories, no.

They were mediums that marked a girl’s passage into womanhood; talismans that enhanced fertility; charms that healed ailments modern medicine could not; and watchkeeper’s over physical beauty.

Beauty… That word means so much to Banou. She had never been the kind of person to draw eyes or make heads turn, but that didn’t matter anymore.

Beads could paint her with beauty cosmetics never could, and beads could fill her with the confidence and self-love she so yearns for.

With those beads around her waist, would she feel beautiful? Definitely. Would other people consider her beautiful? Probably not, but it mattered little, because the beads would make her happy and content with herself.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted. That last thought kept Banou smiling for the rest of the day, just as it had done for countless girls from Africa and women the world over.

Waist Beads are a customary accessory originating from several parts of Africa. African Waist beads are made of small glass blobs arranged on a string and are worn around one’s hips or waist. They are available in various shapes, sizes and colors and are made using a number of decorative charms, stones and crystals.

For centuries, women in a number of cultures in Western and Northern parts of Africa have worn waist beads. They became so popular that in recent years, they found their way to the Western part of the globe. Other terms used to describe waist beads include waistline beads, beaded waist chains and belly beads.

In countries such as Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Mali, Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and others in West Africa, waistline beads are used to symbolize sensuality, spiritual welfare, fertility and femininity. Nowadays, women in Africa and those in the United States wear waist beads to enhance their beauty and for practical reasons.

Nevertheless, they remain an intricate part of the African culture for several reasons. Some of the uses of waist beads are explained below.

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