Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Waist Beads (Origin, Importance etc)

Waist beads African writers hq
Black girl on waist beads.

There’s a reason you prefer looking at Amaka’s waist to seeing Chioma’s, that is because of the waist bead in Amaka waist. Seen by some as an object to enhance beauty by drawing attention to the hips, buttocks and thighs, and seen by others as fetish or diabolic, waist beads have passed the test of time; existing for centuries in many West / North African cultures before moving to gain momentum in the West.

What Are Waist Beads?

Waist beads African writers hq
Black girl on waist beads.

Also known as ileke idi or jigida in Nigeria and waist chains in other parts of the world, waist beads are traditional ornaments worn around the waist. They made up of beads, string or wire and most times decorative stones.

Aside from their aesthetic purpose, waist beads are also worn in Africa as a symbol of femininity and sexual appeal.

Most people also wear them for spiritual purposes. A member of the Ibibio(a tribe in southern Nigeria) royal family who preferred not to be mentioned let this out to me in his words; “the royal family women had this spiritual kind that was supposedly meant to evoke fertility or woman power during sex to make them irresistible or something like that.”

Waist Beads History

There’s no certain history to tell the beginning of the existence of waist beads, but all accounts on the history of waist beads have two things in common: the origin of waist beads which is Africa and its usage dating as far back as the 15th century.

A group of scholars are of the belief that the history of waist beads began in ancient Egypt where it was a symbol of status for women. Waist beads were simply called “girdles” then.

While another set of Historians believe the usage of waist beads may have originated from the Yoruba tribe majorly found in present day Nigeria, West Africa. The origin of waist beads is also linked to other West African countries like Ghana and Senegal. Not forgetting the belly dancers in Eastern cultures too, the only difference between the Eastern belly dancers and the African wearer of a waist bead is that the African prefers to keep them under wraps, while the belly dancers keep theirs over their clothes.

Waist beads have penetrated into more places and cultures as of recent and two of the major reasons for its modern popularity is the sense of confidence and the feel of sexiness it provides to many women. Though most men do wear it too. Benson Ekpo, a Nigerian travel and lifestyle podcaster let us in on a little secret, he admitted to wearing waist beads. “I remember I used to be the only guy in my friend group who had a waist bead. It helped me watch my weight while growing up, if it got tighter it means I’ve added weight” he said.

Importance Of Waist Beads

Weight Consciousness
Benson told us how he uses waist beads to keep track of his weight, but he isn’t the only one out there who does that. Alessandra Nneoma, owner of female clothing brand, Xandy and Ray when asked about the importance of waist beads, said, “it helps with watching belly fat.” This is one of the importance she stated, keep reading to discover the rest.

While those can be their opinions, it is “very very” true, waist beads serve as very effective gauges to check your bodyweight due to the fact that it doesn’t stretch.

There are two ways to use waist beads to check your weight effectively. Each way is applicable to the two types of waist beads –adjustable and non adjustable waist beads. Using the adjustable waist beads, you put it round your waist and lock it, if it begins to tighten with time, it means you’ve gained weight.
For the non adjustable variant: when fixed to your waist in its exact size, if it sits down to the hips after some time, you’ve lost weight and if you’ve gained weight it’ll feel tight or move higher on the waist.

Waist beads

Sexual Appeal
Many men admit to be sexually aroused when a lady puts on waist beads, especially a naked lady. The reason for this sexual attraction is because the waist beads on the waist draw attention to the hips, buttocks and thighs of the wearer. This leads to imaginations and eventually a sexual urge. George Odigie says “I love when my woman puts it on, especially if she decides to walk around naked.”

For people who have had sex with partners who use waist beads, the pleasure it provides as the beads hit themselves and make a weird sound during sex is a moment they relive anytime they see their partner in waist beads. Alessandra Nneoma agreed to this, in her words “ waist beads are very sexy during sex especially when it is doggy.”

Some of the Yoruba people in Nigeria follow a culture that forbids a married woman from showing her waist beads to the opposite gender, this is because if shown, the male may build up sexual imaginations of her. To them, it is similar to a special variety of lingerie. In summary, waist beads create a special rhythm during sex.


Beauty, Art
Most people love waist beads for their artsy look and the beauty they give. The beauty and art importance of waist beads grew and that is why most of the waist beads you find out there are multicoloured. Whether worn inside or outside, it still enhances beauty.

In the video of Mr. Eazi’s song, Surrender, you’ll see a lady putting on a waist bead. The waist beads moved as she moved her hips, and no viewer of such can admit it’s not pleasing to watch unless there’s a personal bias attached. In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, chapter eight, the author described Obierika’s daughter with four rows of jigida(aka waist beads). It was used as a symbol of beauty there.


Symbol of Status And Chastity
Like the ibibio royal family who wear waist beads to show status, many other cultures use waist beads to show class and status.

In some cultures in West Africa, a virgin puts on waist beads and it is then removed by her husband if he wishes. It signifies she kept her virginity for him.


Spiritual Protection
Though not proven, many believe it keeps negative enegry and spirits away. Some also believe it protects women from killers and rapists.


Take it or leave it, waist beads have provided paid jobs, direct or indirect, for people who are involved in the bead making process. From the bead makers to the distributors, there’s an economy made from it. Though, no studies have shown how much the waist beads industry is worth yet.

Meaning Of Waist Beads Colour

The meaning of the colours of a waist bead is peculiar to different tribes, cultures and people Though as of now, most waist beads are multi-coloured so there is little or no importance attached to the colours of waist beads as regard culture and ethnicity. Most people just love a particular colour of waist beads as most people love a particular colour of T-Shirt. However, we’ll still look at the significance of waist beads colours. We’ll look at it in general and the significance in some cultures.

Meaning Of Waist Beads Colour:

• Purple – Royalty, wisdom and spirituality

• Brown: Earth and stability

• Green: Prosperity and fertility

• Orange – Vitality, self-confidence and courage

• Blue: Healing and truth

• Red: Passion

• White: Truth And Purity

• Pink – Care/kindness and beauty

• Yellow: Energy and awareness

In some Malawian cultures, the colours of waist beads have different meanings, the colours helps to pass a message from the wearer to the onlooker. For example, when a woman wears a red coloured waist bead, she’s telling her lover she’s on her period. Here are some colours and the messages they pass:

• White: All is good and sex will be OK.

• Black: Hey you, I’m not in the mood for sex; not in the mood for sex!

• Yellow: In the last days of her period

• Blue and green: I’m open for sex, if you wish; in the mood for sex

If you take at look at the meanings of waist beads colours in Malawi, you’ll find out that most of them are sex related. Malawian writer, Kelisha Satya agreed to this when asked about the significance of waist beads as regard the Malawian people. She said, “waist beards are highly sexual in Malawi, they are considered to arouse men in most parts of Malawi, but this is mostly done by the old generation (older women) or girls living in very non urban areas”.

Waist Beads Witchcraft, Myths

Aanuoluwapo Tayo, a waist beads seller in the South Western region of Nigeria who believes that waist beads are first African, then fashion admitted to the fact many people believe that waist beads are something festish. “Many Christians describe it as fetish and not good for a child of God to wear.” She admitted to the fact that Muslims are more opened to the idea of wearing waist beads than any other religion, “aside from open minded people, those who would use waist beads regardless of their religion are Muslim girls,” she concluded. “Most Africans have attached spirituality to waist beads, but still, it remains nothing but fashion and lifestyle” said Richard Idasenibo Chigbo, writer at Google Naija.

In Nigeria and other parts of West Africa, most cultures add special oils, charms and beads to the making of a waist bead. It is believed that those special stuff added give the beads additional power to attract men, ward off evil spirits, heal sicknesses, etc. As it gains modern popularity, most artists in the West add special crystals that are believed to possess special powers.

The myths surrounding waist beads haven’t been proven yet, they just hang around.

The wearing of waist beads is something that has come to stay, it has survived the test of time and has proven its worth. The only change that the usage of waist beads will witness in the future is growth, it is being accepted world wide and its industry is growing. So, you want to be sexy/romantic in an African way in this modern age? One of the things you should do is get yourself a beautiful looking multi-coloured string of waist beads and let it rest upon thy waist.

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