It has been noted that beads are made in many different regions throughout the African continent. They are made by independent bead makers. African beads made by indigenous tribes and ethnic groups are most commonly referred to as African tribal beads.
However, the Yorubas of West Africa has evolved a more exotic culture of bead making, that spans centuries and intricately designed in such a way and manner that speak equivocally alot about the ceremony or activities it portend to depict.
There is no doubt that the Yorubas have developed the most varying and peculiar uses for the waist beads. The Yorubas have developed a culture of bead usage that cuts across both material and spiritual aspects of the life of the people. In addition, they have also the capacity to produce the beads for varying purposes ranging from royalty, body adornment, deification and decoration.
The Yoruba tribe is one of the largest tribes in Africa. Recent estimate has it that the Yoruba number more than fifty million, primarily prevalent in Nigeria, as well as Ghana, Togo, Benin ,Brazil and others. The most common Yoruba beads are Yoruba brass beads, Keta Awuazi Beads, and Yoruba mock coral beads.
The Piece below is courtesy of Beautiful Yoruba
Yorubas have developed a culture of bead usage that cuts across both material and spiritual aspects of the life of the people. In addition, we have also the capacity to produce the beads for varying purposes ranging from royalty, body adornment, deification and decoration.
Beads of the waist is said to posses the power to attract and evoke deep emotional responses, they are a sign of success and affluence as well as spiritual well being.
The common users of the waist beads are mostly the women folk, only in exceptional theatrical perform as will a man adorn a waist bead to symbolize feminism. The waist bead is synonymous with feminism.
Yorubas have esteemed usage attached to the waist beads. We refer to the waist bead as Ileke, “Lagidigba” the term lagidigba means something big, thick or massive. The Lagidigba is made of palm nut shells string together, while the bebe is made of glass.
Yorubas have a belief that the waist beads posses some erotic appeal, they have the power to provoke desire or deep emotional response on the opposite sex.
Waist beads in Yoruba are also used for birth control; the beads are laced with charms and worn by the women to prevent conception.
Beads are a precious ornaments to Yorubas, hence when adorned by a woman, accentuates her feminism or beauty. Beads also help to portray the chastity of a maiden or women sensuality. Parent show their love for their girl child through gifts of waist beads that are colourful and expensive.
The lagidigba or palm nut shell beads are used for fecundity purposes. The nuts signify multiple births as they are in clusters, thus one can infer the high incidence of multiple births in Yoruba land to the usage of the lagidigba bead.
Brides seduce their spouses with the beads they adorn, some women are said to lace their beads with charm to make them irresistible to the male folks. Yoruba can easily comment on a women’s moral standing in those days by interpretation of the movement of the waist bead adorned by a woman. The way she moves her buttocks can depict her morals either seductive or reserve.
Other users of the waist beads in Yorubaland are the Orisas or devotes of water deities and other priestesses, they adorn the waist beads for protection against spiritual attacks as well as part of their dress regalia.
The waist bead is also used to adorn the Ere-Ibeji figurine on the death of a twin, there is the belief that when treated well the spirit of the spirit of the dead twin will not harm the living twin and will return to the family to stay.
Waist beads are also adorned and laced with charms to ward away the Abiku spirit (mermaid Spirit) from a woman.
Waist bead in today’s fashion is relegated; ladies have a preference for costumes such as belts, chains, g-strings to the waist beads. The culture of waist bead is going down rapidly to extinction. Religion and other spiritual reasons have been adduced for the neglect, however it must be pointed out that waist bead usage as practiced in the past is an essential element of Yoruba body adornment that is harmless and meaningful a pride and precious item which should be encourage today.
Adapted from Beautiful Yoruba-http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=473915275953821&set=a.199210420090976.52876.199101673435184&type=1&comment_id=1463777
Addition from: http://blog.thebeadchest.com/african-tribal-beads/.