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The History Behind African Waistbeads

For many years, I'd travel to Ghana and admire the trade women as they cautiously but swiftly handcrafted beautiful waist beads and also sold the fruits of their labour on the streets of Makola Market - but I never really understood the significance of them until I was a bit older.


Waist beads were worn for spiritual purposes among many West African tribes for spiritual protection. The tradition of waist beads in Ghana also signified wealth and aristocracy.

There are many other reasons why waist beads continue to be an intricate aspect of African culture and continue to be a popular aspect in mainstream culture today:

  1. A Symbol of Femininity - traditionally, waist beads are a sign of femininity and practically, it is also used as an anchor for a menstrual cloth

  2. A Symbol of Sensuality - most women wear their waist beads under their clothing and hence most times only their significant other has the honour of seeing their waist beads. This creates a unique and pure bond between lovers.

  3. Body Shaping and Weight Management - waist beads tend to draw the eyes to one's hips accentuating that feature. But, it's also used as a sign of weight management - the tighter your waist beads feel generally signify weight gain and hence the looser your waist beads feel, generally signify weight loss.

  4. Self Expression - the use of colours also allows the wearer to truly express themselves. Here is what beads colours signify:

White – Purity; light

Black – Power; protection

Brown – Earth; stability

Gold – Wealth; good health

Orange – Courage; self-confidence

Yellow – Energy; joy

Purple – Royalty; wisdom

Green – Nature; prosperity; fertility

Pink – Beauty, love; kindness

Red – Confidence; vitality

Turquoise – Self-awareness; communication

Blue – Loyalty


Personally, I wear waist beads with the hopes of attracting spiritual energy based on the colours I choose. Waist beads is more than a trend.

©2021 by Bernadette Chikowore
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