Monday, October 04, 2010

Oh la la! Didn't Your Grandma Warn You About Waist Beads?!

Mad love to Gifty Abena Otiwaa Arhin for getting me excited enough about a topic to blog about it. Paa Kwesi, I haven't forgotten about yours but you have to agree that Gifty has burned you small with her topic.

Waist beads. Ahondze. 

Ei ei.

look at this picture, and tell me. 
Where do we begin? 

To give the men some time to perch on the corner of their seats, let's begin with Gifty's questions.

1. Do female adults continue wearing waist beads?? 
Absolutely. My grandma still wears waist beads, so there's your answer. 
Do young women wear it, yep. They wear it a little differently than our grandmas though. The ones I've seen the older people wearing are the traditional clay beads. They're a bit heavy. Like what we see the picture here.

The younger women on the other hand, wear the thinner, slinkier-looking beads, often with gold pendants and other accessories thrown in. Mostly they're hidden under our clothes but one hot lady at my old workplace used to rock hers visibly. I was a bit shocked the first time I saw it, but I got used to it over time, and wished I had the chutzpah to do the same. But she was also 10 years or so older than me so maybe I'll get bolder and more comfortable with these things over time.  I think she said she got them from Abidjan. They looked nicer than anything I've seen in Ghana.

2. When you came to the U.S did you wear waist beads?
Yes, some of the time. I bought 3 slinky strings one vacation when I was in Ghana. I never liked the ones you had to tie with a knot so I was happy to find ones that could be fastened with a clasp. I wore them for several years and then I think they broke one, by one. My boyfriend loved them so I dunno why I didn't get new ones when the old ones broke. I remember oggling Sewra's waistbeads for a long time, but always thinking that they were way too pricey. I regret not getting them now.

About a year ago, I got 2 strings from the Whiteley's store at the Accra Mall. You know the store that sells African stuff right next to the Silver Bird Bookstore. Yep. That one. They cost like 15 cedis/string! I dunno what expired weed I was smoking that day but I bought 2 too! And they weren't even that nice. Nothing like Sewra's beads. Ugh! I think I only got them because these too, were fastened with clasps. Alas, I got home, tried them on and discovered...that my ass is smaller than I imagined. They dropped to the ground! So those overpriced beads are still sitting in a rafia basket in my bathroom. If any big booty gal wants them, please let me know and I'll gladly pass them along.

Aww, have me drooling over these beads now. I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaant one! Okay, if anyone wants to get me something for Christmas...try these. My waist measurement is 27, and my hip is 39. I just measured. lol.

I don't know anyone making gorgeous waist-beads like these in Accra. I have a friend who makes bead necklaces at reasonable prices. His name is Tony. He's one of the street guys. Maybe I can get him to make me something special. Gifty!!! Your fault:)

3. Where did the idea of wearing beads around your waist come from and what is its meaning? 

Yie! History. 

Frankly, I don't know. 

But I think at least one of our very smart, and knowledgeable blog readers will know. So please come out and educate us. Paa Kwesi? Help?! 

The myth is that wearing them consistently over time gives the wearer an hourglass figure. The truth is that some African men looooove it, and if you got dem tins on, all ya gots to do is erm, finger them a little and bat your eyelashes..and erm....agor n'asɔ.


  1. I loooooooove my waist beads! I got into waist beads about two years ago when I was in Ghana. My friends kept on raving about this lady at Kanda Estates who sold beads. I kept on wondering what was so special about her waist beads till I saw them myself. She threads the beads with a clear string so the beads look 100 times better than the ones strung with those white threads. She also custom fits it for you when you are ready to buy them so they fit perfectly. Hers also come with the lobster claw clasp things (or whatever they are called). She has a variety of designs, and some that glow in the dark. When I got mine, the price ranged from 4 to 10 cedis with the plain ones costing 4 cedis and the glow in the dark ones costing 6 cedis I think. I bought 2 for my waist -one glow in the dark and a regular one, as well as another regular one for my wrist and I must say I LOOOOOOOOOVE it and so does my honey! Sad news is my glow in the dark ones broke :'( but I will be stocking up as soon as I touch down in Ghana, yay.

    Personally, it makes me feel sexy.

  2. I looooooove waist beads. I had stopped wearing them for some time, but when I came to Ghana this summer, one of my goals was to get me some, and I did.

    I got them at Makola (one of the street ladies), and they were fastened with clasps too.I adjusted them to my waist/hip/butt size when I got home. There is a string of Crafts stores across the street from the Accra mall where really cool beads - both new-fangled and traditional are sold: wanted to get some more, but I forgot).

    I am loving my pink and blue waist beads. But they are only four strings. Wish I had more. They make me feel sexy too!!! Will get some more as soon as i return home again!

    As to history - i've heard they were for men's pleasure, but I don't know if there is any truth or basis in fact to that. Just love 'em!

  3. I love the idea of waist beads but never heard of them till a few years ago. If only the myth was true, lol...

  4. I love waist beads. I wear them; traditional design and modern.

    Esi, i have a friend who makes them with clasps and they are beautifully crafted. How many do you want?

    1. Is this friend in Ghana, could you let me have the contact as I have been looking for those with clasps.

  5. When I lived in Ghana, I knew baby girls who wore waist beads and was told it was to keep evil away from them.

    Are non-African women "allowed" to wear them? ;) They do look sexy!

  6. As a Ghanaian man, I must admit that I am a BIG fan of this piece of ancient innovation.... more effective than a little blue pill.

    Glow in the dark waist beads paaa! "We are moving forward" :)

    PS: I would have signed in as Wofa Eric but my google account has been locked. I guess too much Sakawa...hmmm...

  7. awww Thank you for blogging about this!! I 'm really excited to read other reader's comments as well..
    I did wear waist beads when i came to the U.S but as time went on.. they became tight and so i had to take them off, and usually that's when you get another set of beads.. but i couldn't find waist beads or rather, i didn't bother searching for them..... hmm.. now thinking about it, I really would LOOOVE to be wearing my waist beads... feels so weird without them on!! lol..
    And yes i was taught the same too about the whole myth.. for me it was..

    And also, it looks like grandmas are the ones who give their granddaughters waist mom didn't really buy me waist beads.. my grandma did..hmm.. is there a reason for this?

    Oh and do you all recall.. when you ARE CANED AT SCHOOL with ur waist beads on... ooo if you are UNLUCKY AND THE CANE HITS DIRECTLY ON ONE OF THE BEADS!! AGYEIIII!! IT HUUUURRTS!!

    And i know there are types of beads.. when i was little i had the cheap plastic colorful ones that kinda made noise.. but as you get older, you get the AHWENEPA!! oo love those.. and they are the proper beads.. they dnt make any noise..

    haha nice post Ms.Cleland! :)

  8. i loooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvve waist beads, got a whole collection and still wanting more, Sadly my glow in the dark ones got broken sob sob....

  9. Love waist beads, been wearing them since I was 15 years old... The bf loves them and requests different sizes and styles! I stumbled upon the history of waist beads when it was mentioned in Things Fall Apart. I remember Achebe referring to the women and girls wearing the beads during a rite of passage, possibly connected to puberty. I have heard everything from it actually shapes your waist, makes your hips rounder, and attracts a husband... whatever the reason, I wear it and love it.

  10. Always interesting, your topics and discussions. I love them. Beads are beautiful.

  11. interesting topic! you had me laughing too much with the "i dunno what expired weed I was smoking that day" comment. maybe you were feeling rich that day, eh?

    you will have to give us the scoop about the best place to get them once you find out. a friend in brooklyn was going to give me some once but i forgot to remind her, anyway i am sure the price will be more right in accra!

  12. OMG Esi! i am a waistbead wearing fanatic. I got the ones I have on now the last time I was in Ghana (2007) and they have survived all the rattling and shaking and all in between (if you know what I mean:-) Yes, my man lovesssss them beads.

    The visibility of my beads depends on a few things: my mood and what i'm wearing on any given day. Today, I am at work with low cut business pants and a blouse that is a little short such that when I sit or walk or bend, it a free show for all. It makes me a little uncomfortable, but oh well. My mood is not one of "I feel extra sexy today" Of course not, i am at work:-( Any other day outside of work is a different story.

    Of course one has to have a certain kind of stomach and waist to have beads showing like the lady in the first picture.

    it is amazing that i haven't visited in a while and the one day that i do visit you blogged about the one thing on my mind:-) Thanks for the great read.

  13. i love waist beads to death. my grandma used to make me wear it when i was little and back then i thought it wasn't cool so i hated it but as i grew up i became more interested in it. i wear them all the time. i live in the states and i remember my ultrasound tech would always talk about how pretty they were and what a great idea it was to wear 'jewelery' on the waist. well, i told her the idea wasn't mine. but seriously, where can we get some of these modernized beads to buy? i mine don't have the hooks n they don't glow in the dark either. wd like to surprise the hubby one of these days.

  14. I was told by someone in Ghana that traditionally they were actually functional for when a girl went through puberty, it was used to hold a rag between her legs, draped through the beads front and back. They start wearing them as a baby to get used to them. Who knows if this is true though.

  15. Well I know boys are supposed to wear beads on their wrists and legs until their *clears throat* manhood drops so it seems the bead wearing traditions may have to do with the lady and gentleman parts developing properly :-).

  16. I wear mine proudly! I love it and it only shows if I'm in a bikini. I never wear 'em out but it's kind of like wearing super hot underwear- it gives you this cheeky smile and a spring in your step! I've been wearing them for almost ten years. I have lots of beads that need stringing actually. I trip to Micheals' for a clasp is long a overdue. Time to retstring a new design. One surprise for the hubby coming right up!...haha...I think all my sisters wear it. My mom doesn't but my G-ma used to :)

  17. Oh and for me, it's been a way to check my weight. If it starts getting tight, I know it's a bout time I started working out again. It's worked to keep me at the weight I want :)

  18. Wow, so much talk about glow in the dark beads. I've missed out paa 'cos I didn't even know such things existed until the comments started coming in. I should try them, eh?

    @Nana, your beads lady sounds awesome. Can you share her contact details or directions to her place? I'm often in Kanda and would like to check her out sometime.

    @Tetekai, is it possible for me to see photos of your friend's waistbeads? Then i can make my selection and then pay when i pick them up. Does she have photos on facebook or a website?

    Miss Footloose, of course you can wear them. Anyone can wear them.

    @Wofa Eric, i hope you can regain access to your google account soon:) your waist and hips will join together. If only waistbeads was all it took to prevent that from happening. if only.

    @lucci, where did you get ur glow in the dark beads from?

    @Camille. hehe. Maybe i was feeling rich. i will be doing a post soon on where to find nice jewelry in Ghana. Watch this space.

    @ Nana Ama,
    Who koraa told you that you need a certain kind of waist to wear these things? Abi you can feel sexy at any size. or?

    @Anonymous who talks about waistbeads with ultrasound guy....heh heh...Wait until i find some decently priced beads place and i'll give you the heads up. But if you're in the US, you may have to consider Sewra's beads to surprise the hubby. They're pricey but what the heck, right?

    Ei Aya! Men were supposed to wear it until their what drops? lol.

    Oh Maxine, so you can string them yourself? Maybe you should teach us.Do one blog post on how to string beads. My problem is how to attach the clasp.

  19. I used to like waist beads....when I had a curvier figure and they accentuated my shape. Still like them even if they tend to pinch. Larger beads don't pinch as much. They tore on me once too. Imagine my embarrassment when they came pouring on the ground. Hahaha!

  20. ...Waist beads are the bomb digity!! They definitely make me feel sexier and warn me when i'm expanding too much "horizontally" :) I hear other people consider them as tools which enhances their "fertility" so i guess I should be very fertile when the time comes eh? lol

    Hmm i have some stories with them oo...I didn't start wearing them until i was 15 or so because apparently my grandma said it contained "spirits" according to my mom...but this same mom bought it for my cousin in London during a vacation trip and I was like what? how come i live in GH (at that time) and this "obroni" get's to wear I harassed my mom until she got me my own beautiful pair! lol...I change them yearly and now that I'm back home I should change them more often...maybe the glow in the dark ones...i've just been getting the small colorful ones from hawkers...

    I actually told an old flame (non ghanaian) who was getting "too comfy" one time that my dad put them there to prevent males from touching too much...kind of like a chastity belt.... and he actually believed it and apologized profusely...hahaha he was so upset when i finally confessed...haha

    So bottom line is every female should certainly invest in beads for whatever reason floats their fancy and hopefully they will never regret them!!


  21. This is so cool, Why would I forget my African heritage?

  22. I like the blue green waist beads in the first photo. Can you tell me where I can purchase them

  23. History on the waist beads...
    ditto @Ama Kyei; but I've also heard that it was a way to measure the girl child as she grows, i.e. as she grows more beads are added, if she's loosing weight for some reason, the beads would be loose and fall.

    I used to wear them when I was small and into my early teens don't know why I stopped wearing them, thanks for the post and reminder to go back to them.

  24. I love the last waist beads necklace. It looks awesome. It also complements well with a gold pendant. I will definitely look stunning with this necklace on along with a beautiful dress.