Kente Body Beads
What are waist beads?
Waist beads are a traditional African accessory that consist of small glass beads on a string or wire worn around the waist or hips. They come in different colors and shapes and may also include decorative stones, crystals, or charms.
Waist beads have been worn for centuries by women in many West African cultures. In more recent years they’ve gained popularity among women in the West. They’re also referred to as belly beads, waistline beads, or beaded waist chains.
In Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and other West African countries, waist beads are a symbol of femininity, fertility, sensuality, and spiritual well-being. Today, in both Africa and the United States, women use waist beads for aesthetic and practical purposes.
Heritage and pride
While women of all races and ethnicities wear waist beads, this accessory has unmistakably African origins. Waist beads are a popular way for Black women in the diaspora to connect to their ancestors and celebrate their heritage and cultural practices.
Today, the usage of waist beads by Black and Brown women in the West has evolved into a cultural tradition of its very own, one that reflects the diaspora experience.
Many women in the diaspora don’t have direct knowledge of their West African lineage due to the transatlantic slave trade. Reclaiming waist beads also means Black women can reclaim the opportunity to walk in their ancestors’ footsteps. The beads are a constant physical reminder that heritage is never as far away as you may think, and it’s up for personal interpretation.
Waist beads are commonly used to gauge changes in weight. Rather than step on a scale, people can use waist beads to stay aware of any weight gain or loss in the abdomen.
Waist beads don’t stretch. If you were to gain weight, the beads will sit higher on the waist or feel tight. Conversely, if you were to lose weight, the beads will feel loose and fall further down to the hips.
Unlike the numbers on a scale, waist beads are more compatible with body positivity. Women of all sizes and shapes can comfortably wear waist beads to adorn their body.