African Arts & Culture

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

Story Highlights

  • Various Uses Of This Precious Ornaments In West Africa
  • Other Uses of the Waist Beads
  • Other African Tribes That Uses Beads
  • The Re-emergence Of  This Precious Ornaments In Today’s Fashion

Generally in Africa, wearing  African Beads  has it’s symbolism & purpose.  However,  waist beads are said to be worn by wives to entice their husbands and they symbolize love and passion.

They are also given to girls who have experienced their first menstrual period symbolizing a welcome to womanhood and sometimes given to babies as a gift when they are born. Each tribe, each African country posses their own symbol of this Precious Ornaments.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

The waistband beads is made up of  some local herb or  some healing stone that is believed to stop menstrual pains or cramps, lower abdominal problems, or womb malfunction. The usage of this Precious Ornaments especially waist bead in W/Africa is widespread across the various nationalities that make up the nation. There are similarities and peculiarities in their usage.

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African Beads Precious Ornaments: Various Uses Of This Precious Ornaments In Africa!

One of the few tribes that uses beads for specific purposes is the yoruba people. The Yoruba  developed the most varying and peculiar uses for the waist beads, 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.

Beads are usually small round piece of glass, wood, metal or nut, pierced for stringing.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

Beads of the waist is said to posses the power to attract and evoke deep emotional responsesanonymous

They are either used for adornment such as the waist, neck or ankle beads or as decorative ornament in art works or even for royalty purposes. 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 when traded together, beads stands for unity, togetherness and solidarity.

This Precious Ornaments of the waist is said 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.

Beads stands for unity, togetherness and solidarity!anonymous

This Precious Ornaments have been traded and used since time immemorial. However, the earliest known African beads is traced to Libya and Sudan. 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. The common users of this Precious Ornaments are mostly the women folk, only in exceptional theatrical perform as will a man adorn this Precious Ornaments to symbolize feminism. This Precious Ornaments is synonymous with feminism.

The Africans 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.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

African Beads Precious Ornaments;  This Precious Ornaments are precious to the Africans,  hence when adorned by a women, accentuates her feminism or beauty.

This Precious Ornaments also helps to portray the chastity of a maiden or women sensuality. Parent show their love for their girl child through gifts of this Precious Ornaments that are colorful 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.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

Brides seduce their spouses with this Precious Ornaments they adorn, some women are said to lace their beads with charm to make them irresistible to the male folks. The Yoruba’s can easily comment on a woman moral standing in those days by interpretation of the movement of the waist bead adorned by a women. The way she moves her buttocks can depict her morals either seductive or reserve.

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African Beads Precious Ornaments: Other Uses of the Waist Beads

African Beads Precious Ornaments; Other users of this Precious Ornaments in Yoruba land are the Orisas or devotes of water deities and other priestesses, they adorn this Precious Ornaments for protection against spiritual attacks as well as part of their dress regalia.

The waist bead is also used to adorn the Ere-Ibeji figurine on the death of a twin, there is the belief that when treated well the spirit of the spirit of the dead twin will not harm the living twin and will return to the family to stay.  This Precious Ornaments are also adorned and laced with charms to ward away the Abiku spirit (mermaid Spirit) from a woman.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

Other African Tribes That Uses Beads

African Beads Precious Ornaments; Apart from the Yorubas, other groups in Nigeria also have similar usages of this Precious Ornaments in their culture the Ogonis in Rivers State refer to this Precious Ornaments as Loo, its uses range from covering the private parts of a women to adornment as a sign of affluence.

This Precious Ornaments is a measure of value to the Ogonis and are also worn by bride as part of her bridal rites. The Igbos called it Mgbaji, also for adornment and a sign of social status.The Hausas refer to it as Jigida. To the Kalabaris, the waist bead has the potency of transforming an ugly woman into a beautiful maiden once it is worn.

The Ibibios see it as Nkwa-Isin, they adorn it on a female baby to help give her a good waist line, as she grows, the Precious Ornaments of her size are adorned on her. The Nupe people are also known for their famous  Bida Glass Beads Making.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

In villages, across Bida, tribesmen produce record amounts of glass materials– making beads and glass bottles every year. The uniqueness of these glass beads has turned Bida town into a tourist destination, a house-keeper of one of Africa’s finest ancient crafts. Many villagers have become custodians of their crafts; and the myth surrounding the production of such glass beads has added a sort of mystery to the bead making process.

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The Re-emergence Of  This Precious Ornaments In Today’s Fashion

African Beads Precious Ornaments; The re-emergence of this Precious Ornaments has added a new dimension into the craze for Western oriented fashion among our ladies particularly young ones.

This trend is more pronounced among female students, particularly those in higher institutions. In addition to waist adornment, ladies also use this Precious Ornaments as necklace, for hair tie, and handbag decoration.

Some also wear this Precious Ornaments on their wrists as hand bangles, as well as using them as earrings. The popularity of this Precious Ornaments today is enhanced by the cost of acquiring them.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose

Also, Religion and other spiritual reasons have been adduced for the neglect, however it must be pointed out that waist bead usage as practiced in the past is an essential element of African body adornment that is harmless and meaningful a pride and precious item which should be encouraged today.

This Precious Ornaments make ladies look fine, beads bring out the natural beauty in women. It is good, not just because of beauty, but a way of introducing our culture into the modern fashion.” On the moral implications of the manner in which some ladies expose the sensitive parts of their bodies to show-off this Precious Ornaments.

Unfortunately, this shows the level of moral decadence in our society.  It is a curse for anyone to link our culture to this madness. Various cultures in Nigeria used beads to dignify womanhood. No time did our culture led women naked in the name of displaying beads.

Early bead-making in Africa has been traced to Kimit (Egypt) and Nigeria.anonymous

Reasons For Wearing This Precious Ornaments

African Beads Precious Ornaments; Beads are worn for many reasons. They are used to ward off evil spirits when used with the colors of their deity, birth control , and medicinal purposes like fighting menstrual cramps. A popular reason is to “keep” their husband, or entice the one they desire. It also depends on the wearers purpose. Hidden under clothing, own personal secret and reminder of One’s femininity.

Priestesses of deities also wear this Precious Ornaments that are always colorful as part of their regalia. They also use the waist beads laced with charms for birth control. The maiden dances  also wear the Precious Ornaments doing dance to give a graceful hip movement when they dance.

Meaning and Significance Of Each Colour

This is a very powerful color that also portrays one of class elegance and wealth ; combined with other colors can have a very strong statement.


Often associated with being pure, clean, fresh and good, usually associated with being heavenly.


A bright and warm color representing fire, the sun, fun, warmth. Considered a fun light color, which also increases oxygen supply to the brain and stimulates mental activity.


The color of nature and health. It represents growth, nature, money, fertility and safety. Darker shades represent military, finance, and banking . However it can also be associated with being new or inexperienced as being green or a “green horn”.

African Beads Precious Ornaments, Their Symbolism And Purpose


A cool calming color that shows creativity and intelligence.  It is a color of loyalty, strength, wisdom and trust. Also known for having a calming effect on the psyche.


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