Waist beads, locally known in some African cultures as Jigida, Giri giri or Ileke hold a deep cultural significance in African tradition and are often seen as a symbol of fertility, spiritual well being , femininity and sensuality. What do you know about these beads? Do you know what they mean in your locality?
They are made by stringing beads, small pieces of glasses, metals and sometimes cowries which have been pierced on carefully threaded ropes or fine fishing lines. They may come in different shapes, sizes or colour and adorn the waists of several African women.
It may be hidden under clothes, only on display at certain intervals, or carefully arranged over clothes. Depending on which ever way one prefers, the lovely sounds these beads make as one moves as well as their vibrant colours increases the allure of its wearer.
Each bead with its unique design possesses different meanings in different African communities and while some may preach against these beads, others embrace it as part of the African heritage.
In recent times, they have been used as fashion accessories, which are worn over clothes and under crop tops, displaying every strand of beauty. These beads remain of great significance in African tradition.
As said earlier, each bead with their different shapes, sizes and colours possess different meanings in different African societies. In some cultures, waist beads are adorned on female children to signify purity, only to be taken off on their wedding night by their husbands.
In some African societies, these beads are used as a proof of sexuality and fertility. Female children are adorned with waist beads by their mothers once they get their period to symbolise their transition from childhood to adulthood. These beads mark their rite of passage into womanhood.
Traditionally, some believe that waist beads possess an intimate appeal that arouses one’s interest for another. They are seen as traditional lingerie which improves sexual activities between the wearer and her partner. Thus, these beads are considered private and should only be seen by the wearer’s partner.
Waist beads may be laced with fragrances and charms which attract the opposite sex. Unique stones may also be added to give these beads healing qualities for treating certain ailments as well as balancing and enhancing love.
It is also believed that waist beads are used for shaping one’s body. They improve the fine curves many African women are known for and keep wearers aware of every slight change in their weight. Though these beads do not stretch, they break or roll up as the wearer gains weight.
Most people have different opinions when it comes to wearing these beads, especially in some places in Africa. Many people see it as a fetish, while others see these beads as fashion. Interestingly, more women have started using these beads to stand out.
Many women rock these beads beautifully and make them a must-have. Finally, when you want to pick your bead, learn about colours and their significance where you reside.
What do waist beads signify in your part of the African continent?