Waist beads are an African waist accessory steeped in rich history. Traditionally waist beads consist of glass beads on string or wire that are worn around the hips or waist.
As there are many countries and cultures in Africa, there are many reasons women (and even some men) wear waist beads. Waist beads symbolize femininity, fertility, sensuality, spiritual well being. Waist beads also have both practical and aesthetic purposes; Heritage and Pride, maturity, weight awareness, and posture.
Heritage & Pride – Waist beads are a popular way for women in the diaspora to connect with their African culture, heritage and ancestors.
Maturity – Waist beads worn for this purpose often adorn the waist at puberty or at the age one is ready to marry. For this purpose the beads symbolize the rite of passage from child to womanhood.
Weight Awareness & Posture – Waist beads can help one to gauge changes in weight. Once beads are tied on if there is weight gain, the strand of beads will rise on the body. If one loses weight the strand of beads will begin to lower themselves on the body. Also the beads will sit and feel differently depending on how one sits/stand making you more aware of your posture.
Intimacy and fertility – In many African cultures waist beads are only seen by the wearer and their partner (like lingerie is worn). Many women wear waist beads to enhance their sensuality. Some women even wear certain colors during sex when they are trying to conceive. Some cultures add larger beads or bells to the waist beads so that noise is made as she walks by. This alerts their partner/potential suitor that she is fertile. Certain waist beads are even thought to provide protection for the mother and baby during pregnancy.
Meaning of the Colors
Black – Power and protection, elegant, sophisticated
Blue – Loyalty, truth, confident, stability
Brown – Earth, wholesome, stability
Gold – Good health, power and wealth
Green – Abundance, fertility, nature and prosperity, serenity
Grey– Logic, responsible, trust, authority
Orange – Courage, self confidence and vitality
Pink – Care, beauty, love, playful, sensual/flirtatious, femininity and kindness
Purple – Royalty, spirituality romantic, mystic, wealth, sophistication and wisdom
Red – Confidence, passion, strength, vitality, speed
Teal/Turquoise – Sophistication, communication and self awareness