Experiencing the Royalty of Beads

Experiencing the Royalty of Beads

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By Sheila A. Williams

Fashion, they say, is dynamic. One aspect of fashion that is in vogue in Ghana is bead making. It is common to see on display, on the market, all kinds of products made from beads, including necklaces, bags, bracelet, slippers, shoes and dresses.

Indeed, one easily comes across people who have used beads in their various innovative ways.

We take a look at beads and why the trend has been sustained.

History of Beads

In the olden days, beads were worn by kings, chiefs, queens and royals to show their rich culture.

They were worn only during traditional occasions and festivals like; Dipo or Braago, Hogbetsotso, Homowo, Akwasidae, traditional wedding and many more.

Currently, beads have new names and are used in many forms. We have the “light-off’’, “sign cheque”, “no disappointment”; all of them are waist beads from Saudi Arabia.

Beads serve as special ornaments and people leave them as inheritance for their children and relatives.  In the olden days, beads were used for barter trading; were given in exchange for foreign alcoholic drinks, textiles, perfumes, and even human beings (slaves).

It is mostly given out to young girls who have entered womanhood by their mothers as a sign of celebrating that lifetime achievement. The young girl is advised to keep the waist beads away from people just as the womb is hidden from all eyes.

In the traditional set up, waist beads were meant to be worn for beloved eyes only and not to be exposed for everyone to see.

The potency of the waist beads is realized in the fact that it is kept in the dark and seen as a security between husband and wife.

Today people use beads for adornment, irrespective of their tribe, race and culture. Beads are now fashionable jewelries. Powdered and glass beads are mostly made in Ghana.

Specification of Beads

Beads differ in sizes, prices, colours, shapes, and quality. Beads are made through excavations, shelves, stones and glass.

Benefits of wearing Beads

Beads are worn to control weight, to ensure some level of purity with a husband or a beloved partner and it helps to shape the hips of women when it is worn.

Anecdotes from bead traders

Beads trading is a very big business in Ghana and in the rest of Africa, with lots of beads merchants spread across Africa and other parts of the world.

In Ghana, Mr. Garbe Mohammed, who has sold and traded beads all his working life across West Africa, is a fourth generation beads merchant. He inherited the business from his father and would pass it on to his son after completion of school.

He travels outside Ghana to trade his beads. He sets off to Togo with Ghanaian beads and exchanges them with Togo beads. He then moves on to Benin, where he exchanges Togo beads with Benin beads, and subsequently ends up in Nigeria with Benin beads for Nigeria beads.

He has samples of beads from across Africa – both the ancient ones and those meant for spiritual purposes – at his beads shade in the Koforidua beads market.

Mostly, his customers are from Mali, America, East Africa countries, and other Africa countries, who travel from their respective countries to exchange or trade their original country beads with him.

“Beads travel to very far countries than we can think of,” he says. “Beads business is very lucrative and makes you know people both high and mighty,” he added.

In a close up chat with Auntie Ajeaa Kanidei, popularly known as “Ajeaa Ghana Prosper”, who trades her wears at Makola Gate 4 in Accra, she said she has been in the beads business for the past 32 years. She deals mostly in “Ghanaian beads” otherwise known as “local beads.” She does not trade in beads in the same way as others do; she deals in cash and carry business. Auntie Kanidei sells to other nationals apart from Ghanaians. They are both wholesale and retail customers.

The only foreign beads she sells are those from Saudi Arabia, which are mostly waist beads called “no disappointment.”

Price range of Beads

Prices of beads vary, depending on the size, shape, type and quality of the beads. From the beads market you can get prices of waist and hand beads ranging from GHc5-50 on the low side and GHc4,000 on the upper side. Such expensive prices are quoted for the gold waist beads mostly sold in gold jewelry shops, and those imported from Saudi Arabia.

People who wear beads

Ghanaian men, women, children and babies as well as foreigners wear beads.

Indeed, recently, both men and children have assumed a heightened liking for beads. Obviously, the days when beads were seen as reserve for rituals due to their magical and medicinal powers are gone.

Maintenance of Beads

Beads are maintained and kept neat through cleaning with sponge and water.

Types of Beads

  • 7 Layer shelf beads

There were used for barter during the ancient days, including exchange of a slave. Currently, only a few of the olden day bead can be found in Koforidua market.

  • Roman Empire beads

This used to be worn for self-protection against evil spirits.

  • Face beads

These are spiritual beads from the northern part of Nigeria.

  • Powered glass beads

These are made with combination of glass and have a crystal look.

  • Peculiar waist beads

Sign cheque, light-off and no disappointment: All these waist beads have significant uses and meaning attached to the names. The names depict how precious waist beads are and the potent influence they have on marriage and relationship.

Dressing with beads tells people where you are coming from, the uniqueness of your culture and other things. It is similar to dressing in Africa attire which makes people know that you have a rich culture; easily identifying and seeing you as a pure Africa woman.

Despite the rich cultural display of “beads”, it is uncommon to see young ladies and gentlemen pampering their waist with beads.

Breaking the jinx would require that people do away with shyness and prejudice that beads have spiritual connotations. Those who do will certainly be opting to make their waists, hands and necks look gorgeous with a touch of local handmade bead to show off their royalty.

Have you notice how royals walk in them? Majestically! Be a royal. I am getting myself pampered with ROYALTY on MY WAIST now. What about you, get yours and feel the royal spirit and let the tradition go on.

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