Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Waist Beads: The Rebirth of a Classic Fashion Trend By Jemimah Otueroro

The 21st Century has witnessed tremendous evolutions in different spheres of human endeavour. This is visible in science, technology, religion, literature, arts, and fashion is not an exemption. Perhaps, of these areas of human activities, fashion has been very pronounced and visible.

In the current fashion world, a lot of changes that have occurred have been in the areas of female wears and accessories –of which, in Nigeria, the re-emergence of waist beads –a classic and ancient fashion accessory, is fast becoming a modern trend.

Waist beads are a type of jewellery, usually made up of glass, wood or metallic beads, strung together by a piece of synthetic treads and specifically worn around the waist by the female gender. The origins of waist beads are traceable to ancient times in most African settings when so much emphasis is placed on body adornments and accessories. This fashion adornment was seen decades ago on Yoruba ladies in Nigeria. However, Senegal, Ghana, South-Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and other African cultures also utilises waist beads in ancient times as a symbol of womanhood. Basically, waist beads are beautiful artefacts from Africa’s long rich history that has found a home and relevance in today’s fashion environment, especially amongst the young female gender.

Virtually, every culture in Nigeria and beyond, especially around Africa, has her own peculiar name for waist beads. For instance, in Yoruba culture, it is popularly called bebe idi, Hausas called it Jigida, while amongst the Igbos it is called Mgbaji. It is uncommon to find a culture in Nigeria without waist beads usage for specific purpose or relevance. Amongst the Yorubas and Igbos, waist beads are symbol of maidenhood; they are worn by young girls who are yet to move into the stage of a married woman. They are also worn during festivals, ceremonies and celebrations by dancers and performers to add beauty and glamour to their attires and adornments. These waist beads, usually come in different colours and shades and these colours and shades have different meanings to the users, depending on the culture the wearer comes from. For instance, it is generally believed that, white colour signifies purity and light, blue colour signifies loyalty, red connotes confidence, orange signifies courage, yellow signifies strength, gold and black colours connote power, while purple signifies royalty and green connotes fertility and prosperity. These meanings as ascribed to the different colours of waist beads are by no means exhaustive, but they are indications that waist beads are meaningful artefacts that go beyond beauty.

Meanwhile, in the present age, and especially in Nigeria, there seem to be different ideologies and misconceptions on the re-emergence of waist beads adornments on a woman’s body. This is regardless of how attractive, culturally-relevant and timeless these pieces of jewellery are. In the present age, waist beads have evolved into a more profound and personal object of beautification for many young girls and women. These beads are a means of self-expression that affords a great sense of individuality as a wearer/user gets to choose their preferred colours, shapes and forms that best defines their personality. Hence, some users have admitted that wearing waist beads does not only make them feel instantly attractive to themselves, but it also gives them the power and confidence that comes with expressing themselves in a culturally-relevant manner as an African woman.

Another reason ladies wear waist beads is for self-awareness. These beads, some users affirmed, have a unique way of keeping the user’s physique in check. To these categories of users, they likened wearing waist beads to having a waist scale, which helps them to be aware of their waistline and general weight gain and weight loss. These beads also makes the user conscious of their sitting and breathing postures and offers a more personal reminder of the changes in their body, while boosting self-awareness.

However, despite these positive and usefulness of waist beads, there seems to be a disdain for them from some quarters in the Nigerian society. While some are of the belief that waist beads are for fetish purposes, others assumed that they are signs and symbols of promiscuity, having the mindset that any lady wearing waist beads is promiscuous. Some also views ladies wearing waist beads as those being possessed by an evil spirit (ogbanje, in Nigerian parlance); they form a general impression of it being immoral fashion ornaments and have unfavourable disposition towards them as just as they do with body tattoos and body piercing.

Nevertheless, the piece of jewellery exudes such sensuality that various musical artists of African heritage have written songs in praises of its uniqueness and relevance to African culture. Despite these misconceptions, most ladies wear waist beads not for these misconceptions stated above but because it makes them feel attractive. Therefore, it is important for the society to understand that this ageless piece of fashion adornment is here to stay and there is need for those with wrong notion of waist beads to limit the stereotype about waist beads and appreciate its aesthetical and cultural functions.

1 comment:

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