The History of African Waist Beads

The History of African Waist Beads

African waist beads existed long before they were a fashion trend for body positivity on social media. It is speculated that ancient Egyptians first used African waist beads around the 15th century. Illustrations of Egyptian women wearing waist beads found in ancient pyramids provide some of the earliest evidence of African waist beads. 

The waist beads were called “girdles” in Egypt and were created from seeds, animal bones, and shells. These “girdles” were worn by women and represented their social status and wealth. African waist beads may have started in ancient Egypt, but they surely didn’t stay there. 

African waist beads also have a long-standing history in West Africa as well. Countries like Ghana and Nigeria are notorious for their beautiful waist beads and rich traditions. The Yoruban tribe of Nigeria is credited for making waist beads popular in West Africa. However, Ghana is currently recognized as the global waist bead capital with many waist bead companies buying from Ghana. Joeanna’s Collection for example ethically sources 20% of beads from local vendors in Ghana to support the local women and offer authentic quality to our customers. 

Modern waist beads are made from seeds, glass beads, charms, or crystal stones. There are many reasons people wore African waist beads. African waist beads were used for various reasons such as the celebration of womanhood, spirituality, protection, sexuality, fertility, and status symbols. The traditions vary from tribe to tribe along with the different meanings of color, materials, and bead sizes. Some women, like the Yoruban women, were known to use charms and fragrances on their beads to attract a husband or partner.

The Krobo tribe of Ghana uses the waist beads during the Dipo Ceremony which is really a festival. The Dipo Ceremony serves as a rite of passage for young girls into adulthood. Over the four-day festival, the young girls are sent to the chief for rituals to equip the girls for womanhood, marriage, and child-rearing. Many aspects of this ceremony have changed over time, but it is still practiced.

As you can see, African waist beads have been around for many centuries and are continuing to spread in popularity throughout the world. More and more women are flocking to African waist beads for one reason or another these days. Regardless of the region, African waist beads have continued to be a symbol of femininity, spirituality, and tradition. They will continue to be a tool for the celebration of womanhood for all who wear them.