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Marysia Swim

African ‘Fertility’ Waist Beads 101

I went on a weekend getaway and rediscovered the waist beads my mom brought back for me from her trip to Sierra Leone, Africa earlier this year. It reminded me to share more about the  beads on the blog because there is a long history in the beads that include fertility.

In fact, they are called “fertility beads” in some cultures. It is thought that they originated with the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, West Africa but other West African nations like Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone have adopted them. They are considered to be “of the earth” or the source of life as many women wear them during pregnancy to protect the baby from evil spirits and ensure a safe labor and delivery.

Some wear them to encourage fertility. It’s not scientific of course, but steeped in tradition. Others believe the beads have healing property. Some African women wear them to ward themselves from negative energy.

Erotic Nature of Beads

In some parts of Ghana and Nigeria, people have a belief that the waist beads possess some erotic appeal and have the power to incite desire or deep emotional response on men.

They Symbolism of the Colors 

The colors and stones or beads used in the beads have different meaning too. Colorful rainbow beads are considered to have balancing properties.

~Yellow- Symbol of wisdom/knowledge, clarity, increases awareness & stress relief.

~Blue- Symbol of knowledge, healing, peace, truth & harmony.

~Orange – Symbol of optimism, positive mood & promotes self-confidence.

~Pink- This color is associated with unconditional love, romance, purity, femininity & healing.

~Green – This color is associated with prosperity, hope, harmony & healing.

~Red – Self-confidence, vitality, sexual energy, passion & courage.

~violet – Color symbolizes intuition, power, inspiration & royalty.

~Gray – Symbol of wisdom & communication.

~Brown – Symbol of comfort, security, practicality.

~Black- Symbolizes energy & strength. (source)

Beads can be made with semi-precious stones thought to heal certain ailments. They are sold, made with all types of materials shell, gemstone, glass, plastic, pearl or even clay or wood.

How to Wear Them

Waist beads are created to be worn below the belly. I have worn mine at my mid-riff as well. Some prefer to wear them under their clothing only to be seen by themselves or their spouses or partners. Others flaunt them on bare bellies or even over their clothing.



Waistbeads for tracking Weigh Management

Many women wear the beads as an instrument in losing weight. When the strands begin to be too tight, the wearer knows it may be time to cut back and start exercising if they want to maintain their weight. Also, for those on a weightloss journey, as the beads become looser, they know they are definitely on a downard trajectory as the scales do not always indicate loss when one is building muscle at the same time as muscle weighs more than  fat.

Modern Use

In modern culture, waistbeads have been adopted to flaunt and draw attention to a trim midsection or tight abs.  Women in Ghana have worn them to accentuate their hips.

They are more of a fashion element though those who wear them ought to be aware of their cultural origins and significance just in case they are questioned or asked about them while out and about. It is the best thing to be aware when donning an item of clothing or style that originates in a culture that is not their own. You don’t want to be accused of “cultural appropriation.”

Cost

If you don’t have a family member or friend coming back from Africa, certainly, you can grab yourself some from Etsy shops. I found them sold Here, Here and Here for about $10 and up. If you spot any on sale for $5, they may not be authentic and genuine but a mass-produced copy. Beware!

Lupita Nyong’o, a Bellyitch Blog fave was spotted wearing one (above) back in 2014 when she was in Maui for the Maui Film Festival. She was seen looking tone and effortlessly chic in a Marysia Swim bikini and even Instagrammed a pic from the locale.

SHOP THE LOOK!