Waist beads are a traditional African accessory that consists of small glass beads on a string or wire worn around the waist or hips. In west African countries, they come in various shapes and may also include decorative stones, crystals, or charms.
Anklets/ankle chains originated from ancient Egypt as early as predynastic times and they were used as protection against diseases and bad omens. African waist beads were made popular by the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria as early as the 15th century.
Anklets and waist beads are distinct feminine jewelry used to signify wealth and fertility and can be worn beautifully by women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. The higher quality the beads and charms, the more prestigious the woman appeared. In some traditions, bells were even added to waistbeads and ankle chains to let men know that the woman was ready for marriage.
So, if these ornaments were once a symbol of prestige and fertility, why do many people not strive to embody the same identity? If we are going to identify as proud Africans and enthusiasts of all things African, shouldn’t we be admiring and promoting these ornaments every day? Why then do people label women who wear waistbeads and ankle chains as "lose" women? If anklets and waist beads are degrading, aren’t African bracelets, and necklaces too?
It pisses me off when I see black folks rejecting the connotations we once appointed to these African adornments. Ankle chains and waist beads don't promote promiscuity, waywardness, and inclinations towards Mami-Wata (an African water Goddess). They are simply jewelry like any other meant to adorn the body of the lady who wears them.
I think given our history, we should wear them in pride and awareness of the genuine meanings they once had and can continue to have. Wearing African jewelry is an art of African culture, not evil. It is up to us to reclaim its once admirable status.