Point of View // 03.11.2011

Are Waist Beads Tacky or Tasteful?

Article by Efua A

Unlike a necklace or a bracelet, waist beads attract and evoke deep emotional responses within us. Today they are seen as a tasteful and fashionable accessory; however some people still maintain cultural and superstitious beliefs about them. This space is dedicated to different opinions about waist beads from Africans living in Africa and the Diaspora; however the opinions don’t stop here, feel free to extend this page into the comments section. Enjoy!

“I think waist beads are a good thing because they are an art and an expression of African culture, on the other hand they are authentic especially in traditional Mediterranean dances, in my opinion they are nice.”

–          Vivica Amix – Kenya

“Hello TEMPO! This is neat. Should be having more of these ‘free to comment’ topics.
I think Waist beads are tasteful, pretty much so BUT….I think the ‘Missionaries in Africa’ effect on me is probably too much. I get this feeling waist beads are somewhat paganish and suspicious, especially since you aren’t supposed to remove it. But then again I’m suspicious of almost all African art, especially masks. (Can’t convince me on those ugly masks)
That said, these beads make one look pretty feminine and more… it’s just their purpose, more than that is what I’m unsure of.”

–          Joshua Kiregu Gicheru – Kenyan living in Rwanda

“I think they are tasteful depending on your purpose for wearing them.  I think the little beads discreetly under your clothing are great and they really represent us as African women, I wore mine for years from puberty till they broke when I got pregnant and my belly got too huge, I never took them off….”

–          Janet Mosha – Tanzanian living in the USA

“My take on waist beads? Absolutely tasteful. I’ve worn them for years. I have more than 10 on my waist!”

–          Abena Sarfo-Mensah – Ghanaian living in the USA

“When I was still in Secondary School (mixed boarding school in Uganda), they were emergency checkups for girls. They would lock us up in the main hall and with utmost secrecy, the senior ladies and teachers would check one by one to see if we had beads on our waists (I didn’t have any of course).

For the girls who were caught with waist beads, an emergency general assembly was called with everyone, boys included. These girls with beads would be paraded at the front and made to show their beads to the whole school with so much ridicule. I didn’t understand why they were being victimised but apparently the girls with the beads were traditionally seducing the boys and therefore misbehaving.

–          Gloria Irie – Rwanda/ Uganda

“Tacky for everyday wear, except for a cultural show!”

–          Ruth Alet Duniya – Nigeria

“Very tasteful……. my cup o’ tea!  I think they are sexy, and I find them very attractive, I think they enhance the sex appeal of a woman. But these are very personal opinions not anything I expect folks to agree with. They are can also be very exotic, and have traditional African appeal”

–          David Sakyi – Ghana
“A stone is a stone until it’s not.” lol, that may seem silly to read, but I think makes my point. I don’t think waist beads, art, masks etc. are bad in themselves, but rather dependant on what we make of them or what is made of them.
Now, waist beads to me were always just like a necklace. I don’t have one, and the first time I saw one was on a friend at school. I didn’t think much of it, like I said, I thought it was like an anklet or, necklace or something. I only learnt about their ‘history’ later, when an aunt said they used to be associated with promiscuous women or something like that hehe.
Anyway, I believe, if you feel it will cause you to stumble in your path, faith etc, leave it be. If you think it’s a cause of others stumbling, leave it be (unless you can convince them otherwise).
Otherwise, like Josh, I guess they are just a pretty decoration of jewellery for women who want to wear one.

–          Joanna Iribagiza Gara – Rwanda

“Tasteful. The beauty of them is the fact that they are very private – only a person who knows you intimately will know what they look like or that you have them at all.”

–          Delphina Namata Musisi– South Africa

“I think tasteful because they have to match with what you are wearing.”

–          Janice Ndisale- Malawi

“Tasteful, I wore them for years, and the only reason I stopped is because I put on weight and just haven’t gotten new ones.
I think they are a beautiful representation of African culture.
Also, I think it’s interesting to discuss why women wore them in the past. My mum would always get upset when they could be seen and she was like that is inappropriate only your husband should see those….”

–          Anowa Quarcoo – Canada/ Ghana

“They are nice if worn with a nice sexy outfit especially African cloth – you risk looking like a slapper if worn with a tight vest and low rise jeans if you catch my drift :-). Also it really depends on the quality and taste of beads.”

–          Effe Hagan- England/ Ghana

So what do you think?

5 Responses to “Are Waist Beads Tacky or Tasteful?”

  1. Tumisang says:

    I never knew waist beads could be worn for fashion reasons, the only time I saw an adult wearing waist beads, they were red and white and were for traditional use, protection or something along those lines, so I never liked them since. I know though that they are also used on baby girls to mould their waist and that looks cute! The girl grows up to have a small waist, no matter what shape the rest of your body takes!

  2. Akaliza says:

    When I went to boarding school as a teenager and saw my
    West African friends waist beads, I thought they were the coolest thing. Then a year a go, I got a Ghanaian housemate who also wore waist beads, and I guess I went on about them so much, when she left 6 months later, she gave me a set of my own! I was so excited. I felt like I’d joined some cool girls club. The only thing I knew about them was that they were meant to shape your waist, and not to be seen in public.

    Later though, when I showed them to my aunt she told me that here (in Rwanda) they have other connotations and for a single Christian girl like me they could get me a wrong kind of reputation. Later, I spoke to another Rwandan/Ugandan girl who was shocked that I was wearing them, and also warned me about kind of lifestyle it would hint at.

    I was heart broken. I love my Ghana Beads (as I call them). I hope that in the future, in East Africa they won’t be seen as juju wear for street girls (yeah I said it!), and instead be seen as the beautiful, culturally rich, feminine accessories I always admired.

  3. kari jones says:

    I think they are so beautiful& I would love to find out where to find some. :-)

  4. Roots says:

    hahahah! Juju wear for street girls? wow. that’s deep, east africa. But I’m not surprised. I guess they are meant to “charm” but not in the witchcraft way. Aka, just let them be ur little secret.

  5. Jane says:

    Waist beads are meant to be sensual and are part of African culture. Being colonized has really affected alot of Africans and how they view their traditional clothing and norms, seeing them as demonic and ridiculous or shameful. These views must change, the good traditions should be retained and the bad discarded, wearing waist beads is not a bad practice. The main point is to keep it tasteful and not tacky.

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