The Waist Bead
Beads are both treasured and revered in Ghanaian culture. From birth to death, they play a significant role in the rites and customs of its people that goes beyond mere self-expression.
Beads in Ghanaian culture are primarily considered items of decoration. However, they are also important tools for communication, used to express ideas, messages and symbolism through the language of color.
The Meaning of Ghana Waist Beads
African Waist Beads are one of the most commonly replicated items of personal adornment worn by Ghanaian people. Traditionally, multiple strands of colored beads made from seeds or glass are worn around a woman's waist to draw attention to, and enhance her femininity.
But, they also have other connotations. In Ashante and Krobo cultures, mothers present waist beads to their daughters to mark their coming of age. Once she reaches sexual maturity, larger beads or bells may be added. This is so that, when a woman walks, the beads produce a sound to inform potential suitors of her availability.
Modernly, Waist Beads also serve as a weight control tool. Quite simply, if they roll up the waist, this is an indication to lose weight!
Beads in Ghanaian Tribal Ceremonies
Glass Beads play a central role in coming of age 'Dipo' ceremonies in the Krobo. When a girl comes of age, she is customarily adorned with beads around the waist, ankles and neck in preparation for her public unveiling.
Some beads are purely decorative. However, those worn about the neck convey specific information about her family background, clan and wealth to potential suitors. Generally, the larger the beads, the more affluent her family.
Ghanaian Culture & Beads
Beads in Ghanaian culture have long been considered vessels of spiritual energy. Bone Beads, made from cattle, are of particular significance, since many tribes are still animistic in faith.
Among the Krobo and Ashante, wood and glass beads featuring the 'evil eye' are commonly worn for spiritual protection, along with old Venetian Trade Beads. Traditionally handed down as heirlooms within families, it is commonly believed the beads impart the knowledge and wisdom of family ancestors.
Ghanaian Jewelry & Inspiration
From the way they are strung together in sequences of color, to their importance as objects of beauty and spirituality, the symbolism of beads in Ghanaian culture is an endless source of inspiration for jewelry making ideas. Have you been inspired by traditional Ghanaian jewelry?