Waist Beads as Worn in Ghana

A woman dressed for Otofo

In addition to ear stretching, the wearing of waist beads is one of the African traditions that has got global trend within the last decade. What can we say, they are beautiful 😍 and I personally don’t think it’s appropriation…so go ahead and wear them beads📿😁.

Waist beads trends

Girls in Ghana wear waist beads from baby till they decide not to wear them anymore or to their death. Though they are called waist beads, they are usually worn to sit on the hips.

I have a theory as to how the wearing of waist beads probably started. Centuries and centuries ago, my ancestors, and probably yours as well were either naked or nearly naked.
I know that in ancient Ga communities, women used to have only two pieces of cloths hanging on beads around their waist as clothing, one in the front and one in the back.
I think it’s possible when people started covering their pubic parts, they did use some part of the cloth as strings to tie around them but with time, the creative members, those with a style and fashion sense thought of using beads instead, it’s more beautiful, colourful, shiny, and attracts attention to one’s hipline(which by the way helps a man guess how fertile a woman probably is). I imagine those who started it got envied by all the other women still tying with pieces of cloths and couldn’t afford the beads😂.

Modern women wear waist beads on any of these three areas.

Anyway this is purely what I imagine happened, may not have been the case.
Women did hang the two pieces of cloth on their waist beads, and though that’s obviously not how we dress anymore…it’s been kept as the dressing style for certain traditional ceremonies like the coming of age rituals for girls such as Dipo of the Krobos and Otofo of the Gas’.

On the left is a Ghanaian TV presenter dressed as a Dipo girl on her morning show.

With waist beads having a function then of holding one’s clothing in place, one had to wear many strands of beads, as many as 30 or more depending on the size of the beads. But now, as we all wear modern clothing and don’t need to keep anything in place, we wear less number of strands.

It is a fact that some men find waist beads on women sexually attractive, it is however not the main reason why little girls are worn waist beads by their grandmothers. No grandmas wanting to attract pedos, nuh uh.

The concept is that, the waist beads helps shape the girl’s body. Particular it helps bring fullness to the hips.
Our elders do care about our future body shape and attractiveness so yes they put in effort early on so we grow into beautiful confident women. That’s why our grandmother’s massage our bums🍑 and heads into perfect gorgeous molds😉.

Even though we don’t necessarily believe the beads give us a curvy shape, most modern Ghanaian women will still wear beads all the way into their old age.
I think there may be a little truth to this theory, in the sense that waist beads though not so heavy as to add more than at most 1kg to your bodyweight on a scale, still has some weight. More so depending on the number of beads sizes and strands(the common number of strands now is 3) one is wearing…and as we wear them usually permanently till they break, that is a constant weight always on the hips, and I can see how that can cause the hips to extend just a little.
And from the number of beads in these pictures, it’s possible our grandmothers’ hips did fill out due to all that weight on it.

Wearing many strands of waist beads can also give the illusion of a curvier figure, as beads are extra layer above your skin, looking at the naked body from top to bottom, the extra lift of the beads will make the upper body before that point look smaller in comparison. The weight of many beads can also influence the swaying of the hips, makes one sway more seductively.

As little children tend to play around naked or bath outdoors a lot, everyone does see the waist beads a little girl is wearing. As a girl grows older though, just like every other private thing on the body that shouldn’t be seen by others, the waist beads must stay hidden as well. This is more because the body part where the beads is worn shouldn’t be shown to others, particularly men. Because for a man to see your waist beads will be for you to be in a state of undress.
This of course mattered after the periods where being fully clothed or covering such areas was now the norm. Before that or in areas where people just cover the pubic region with a piece of cloth, the waist beads which is usually what the cloth hangs from, is on display regardless of age.

The Himba tribe of Namibia still use waist beads to support their cover cloths.

Men love seeing their woman’s waist beads because it is one of those things that are for your eyes only, and don’t we all love our special items?

Growing up, my grandmother made all our waist beads. When she thought we may be growing out of our old ones, she made us new ones. I wore waist beads from baby into my early twenties, until my then boyfriend expressed dislike of the beads, he was afraid they were some kind of juju to trap men. I didn’t particular care for the beads so I stopped wearing them. And I continued not to wear them after we broke up.

Recently a friend shared information about beads she’s come across and while we talked about beads I desired to get them again. And so I did. I made them how my grandmother used to make them for us.

You can strand your waist beads yourself but it is a lot easier to buy already stranded beads. They make it long enough it can fit around most people.
I bought two strands only this time(wore 3in the past).
When I got home, I cleaned them first by wetting a towel with sanitizer and pulling the stranded beads through it. I then did a spiritual cleanse using sage and sound from a shaker. If you believe in such things I recommend doing this as all objects collects energies and you’d want to cleanse out previous energies in the beads before putting it on yourself.
I put a strand around my hip, the part I will place the beads and measured the perfect fit, then I pull the excess beads down the strand.
I paired the first strand with the second one to measure that out too.
My grandmother never tied our waist beads while it’s around our waist, she measured it around us and then takes it off to tie it. And if you are doing this by yourself it’s easier to take it off to tie as well.
I tie the individual strands separately, make sure that all beads are stuck one on the other, with no spaces of strings between them, then tie very tightly. Afterwards, put the separate strands together and tie them together at one point. After you feel it’s tightly secured, cut of the excess strands. This method is for beads that you are going to be wearing without taking them off regularly.
To wear your beads, wear it from the bottom, such as when wearing a pant. Then pull up, when you get to your bum, use your hand to flatten your bum and pull the strands slowly upwards till it’s sitting comfortably on your hip. If you measured out the beads well, it shouldn’t slip. They can still be taken off by sliding down the hips with slight pressure but usually one allows it to come off by itself whenever. You can also cut the thread with a blade when it gets too tight to slide off.

My new beads😍

Why your permanent waist bead should sit above your hip?

Waist beads are not stranded with stretchy fabrics, so they don’t stretch at all.
If you have it on your actual waist, stomach or abdomen, whenever there’s any form of bloating, which can happen daily with food intake, this will put pressure on the strand and it can tear. It won’t be comfortable for you too when you have the beads tight around your stomach when you are full or still trying to fill up your stomach more lol.
Beads worn on the stomach or waist as is done now by many, usually has a clasp or something that allows it to be easily snapped open and taken off. So that is different.

Also as lots of women use waist beads to check their weight in terms of how tight or loose or just right the beads are on them, wearing it on the waist or stomach or even around the abdomen won’t do justice to that purpose, as these areas have the tendency to extend and retract many times during the day. Both eating and taking a number two affects the size of these areas.
The hips however does not go through same changes, sometimes in years there’d still be no real change in the size of one’s hip.

Waist beads in regard to weight is best for maintaining one’s body weight at the time it was first worn. Yes you can tell when you lose or gain from it, but if you aim is to be losing or gaining, it means you’d be taking them off and restranding and replacing more times than usual, though that may be little payment for actually getting your desired weight by the assistance of waist beads.

Everything we do in this our universe is ruled by our intention. Waist beads can be spiritual to one, functional to another, and simply style for another.
Base on your belief and intention, use them however you’d like to.

My leftover beads

For my new sets of beads, I got the colours white and red(wine-ish).
White to represent the divine, purity and goodness. My intention for it is to attract to myself divine protection, love and light.
Red, as the colour of the root chakra to represent the physical and material. To keep me grounded, attract to me material wealth, and sense of security.

Things to note;

Some waist beads make noise as you move your body, these beads are preferred by some for that purpose but if you would much rather not have your waist singing with every sway, confirm what type you are getting before buying.

Even when worn under clothes, waist beads can still give an outline that shows through your clothing.

Beads sitting on your hips falls above your pubic region and sometimes hairs get caught in between the beads, this can be very painful with movement as the beads pull on the hair strand. As a solution, put your beads over your panty so there is a barrier between the beads and your pubes.

Waist beads made from glass can break and come off at any time, usually after some pressure has been put on it and sometimes embarrassingly in public.
I remember back in basic(grade) school, several times at assembly, girls will have their beads coming off and spreading everywhere after being caned on the ass. Aside you getting embarrassed, one would get teased as well.
Everytime I’ve seen waist beads come off in public, it has been due to caning. That being said it’s not a common occurrence when nothing is hitting you in that area regularly, but just prepare your mind that a strand of beads tailing after you in public is a possibility.

Tell me are you sold on getting waist beads? What colours would you get? Waist, stomach or hip? Will they be under clothes or exposed?

Do you wear waist beads already? What things did you notice from wearing waist beads that you’d like to share with us? Any embarrassing waist beads related stories?

Credit: all images except stated above otherwise, is from Google photos.

2 Replies to “Waist Beads as Worn in Ghana”

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