Maturity & Growth
Throughout several countries in Africa, belly beads have been used to adorn girls and women and indicate how they have matured and grown. Traditionally, mothers adorned their daughters with waist beads during their first menstruation as a rise of passage into womanhood. New belly beads were looked forward to, as they symbolized a healthy life, and the special things about a woman that set her apart from a man.
Waistbeads can also be worn for seduction. Not only do they symbolize a woman’s progress in life, but they honor her sexuality as well. For some, waistbeads possess intimate appeal and can provoke desire. Wives would often lure their husbands with the rattle of beads or use them as a means to communicate their fertility at certain times of the month.
Senegalese and Yoruban women, in particular, heightened their allure with the gently clicking of sweetly perfumed tiny bead strands worn around the waist underneath their clothing.
Many women used waist beads as an instrument of body shaping. The beads were used to alert women of their weight gain or if they became pregnant. For women who do not normally weigh themselves, belly beads can serve as an indicator of weight loss or gain: beads roll lower on your waist if you lose weight, and become tighter or higher on your waist if you gain weight.