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The cultural history of waist beads (Mikanda)

Over the years, wearing waist beads has slowly become the ‘in thing’ in fashion.

The cultural history of waist beads

Although it has always been an element of culture in the African custom, today, many more people have fallen in love with the idea of having it on or having someone they love wearing them.

Waist beads are adornments or decorative pieces made from cowries, precious shells, beads, pearls, or small metal strung onto a wire or fish line(not the one used for fishing). These waist beads come in different lengths, waist sizes, colours, and shapes and could be worn in single strands or multiple strands as they sit beautifully on the waist of the wearer.

As earlier stated, waist beads have been a part of African culture, especially West Africa’s, for the longest time. In Nigeria, waist beads were worn as a sign of spirituality, femininity, sensuality, growth, and fertility in the olden days. In Ghana, it is a symbol of a rite of passage and coming of age for a young girl, and this is usually proof of her sexual maturity. It also helps to accentuate the waist, giving it a smaller frame.

When a baby is born, the baby is traditionally beautified with waist beads, and once the baby is grown to about a year, if he is a boy, he stops wearing, while the girl continues to wear them. The young girl will continue to wear the beads on her waist till puberty; she automatically outgrows them and is given new ones as she transitions into womanhood.

In some other cultures, the waist beads are worn for protection from the ‘evil eye,’ As such, precious beads invoked with charms are added to give maximum protection.

One thing that is common to every wearer worldwide is that waist beads are the fact that they serve as a form of body shapers. They are excellent tools for monitoring weight gain and weight loss. A little weight loss or weight gain is easily detected; once the wearer gains weight, the beads easily roll up and eventually break, and if the wearer loses weight, the beads roll down and become so loose that they finally fall off. So if you are going on a weight loss or weight gain journey, it would be an excellent pointer to get waist beads to track your progress somewhat.

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