- Dec 11, 2006
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Waist bead among the Yoruba
By Alloysius Nduka Duru
THE usage of beads especially waist bead in Nigeria is wide spread across the various nationalities that make up the nation. There are similarities and peculiarities in their usage.
However, the Yorubas 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 Yorubas are found in the South Western geo-political delineation of present day Nigeria. They are a vibrant and social people that accentuate their ways of life in their day-to-day activities.
Beads are usually small round piece of glass, wood, metal or nut, pierced for stringing. They are either used for adornment such as the waist, neck or ankle beads or as decorative ornament in art works or even for royalty purposes.
The art of beading is serial in process and serrated in composition. It has a step by step or one by one approach in stringing when traded together, beads stands for unity, togetherness and solidarity.
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 Origin of the Nigerian beads is still speculative due to its fragility portability and popularity.
Beads have been traded and used since time immemorial. However, the earliest known African beads is traced to Libya and Sudan. In Nigeria the Nok terracottes and Igbo Ukwu arts display some element of the usage of beads in those societies as early as 500BC, however there is no concrete statement of origin to the beads.
A common usage of the item is for adornment especially on the waist. There is however varying purpose for which people adorn the waist beads.
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.
The Yorubas have esteemed usage attached to the waist beads. They 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.
The 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 the Yorubas, hence when adorned by a women, accentuates her feminism or beauty. Beads also helps 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 is 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.