Both of these styles proved to be very popular as currency for another four centuries. From a simple necklace of colorful seeds, to a 3,000-year-old nugget of Chaldean glass, the value of African beads can range from a few farthings to a fat fortune. Currency. Filed Under: Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia Tagged With: Africa, Art, Beads, James Michael Dorsey, Kenya, South Africa, Your email address will not be published. There are a number of tribal cultures that have raised beadwork to its highest levels, employing it not only for rites and ceremonies, but incorporating beadwork into the utensils of everyday life, turning the most mundane objects into living works of art, and probably the best known of all are the Maasai. Unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in any email. Beads have often been a substitute for coin currency in historical societies and continue to be in some countries in Africa. Zaire is known for stone beads while Uganda is leading the way by making beads from recycled paper. Beads were used as part of African religious rituals, increasing their value and respect for beads. Young female, as soon as they hit puberty, were made to wear these waist beads to ensure people, specifically men that they have reached just the right age of marriage or mating. The influence of waist beads spans across several countries and spreads to the Caribbean as well. What we do know is that in 2004 in a cave in South Africa near Cape Town, archeologists uncovered drilled ostrich egg beads that date back a minimum of 45,000 years and as much as 280,000 years, depending on who the examiner is. Some Waist beads are used for healing or rejuvenation purposes; depending on the ailment or what needs to be enhanced, various semi-precious stones are also included in the design of the waist beads. African beads are exquisite works of art.. Beads are often worn while expressing art for example, in Nigeria, Kalakuta queens at Fela’s shrine were often adorned in colourful beads while performing on stage. African Beads History: The Amazing History & Bead Work In Africa. Sudan, Kenya, and Libya have all yielded similar beads that have been dated to at least 12,000 years ago. They are also used for artworks. Southern parts of Africa utilize waist beads in unique ways as well. They do not only wear these items for special occasions, but as an everyday way of life. To attract suitors. The two techniques for making glass beads that dominate in Africa are Power-glass Beadmaking and Bida Glass Beadmaking. Unfortunately, that term was in common usage until the 1920’s when socially conscious people began to realize just how offensive the word was and it was replaced with the term, “trade beads.”. Initiates often wear beadwork in combination with other garments. Notably, women in Zambia and Malawi use their beads while pregnant or in order to seduce their husbands. The history of bead making in Africa goes far beyond using beads as jewelry – African beads have been used in trade, art, and many aspects of culture. Cowry shells can be found throughout Africa and are probably the most used decorative symbol on the continent. Beads are also embedded as rollers in wooded hand-held massage therapy devices. Revenues from special screenings, DVD sales, online streaming and theatrical screenings outside... Africa has long been a mysterious, magical, and interesting place. Because of their mouth-like shape, many people liken their image to a vagina and as such they have long been used as a symbol of fertility, especially as ceremonial beads. Besides using beads for fashion reasons, some African communities in the past used special types of beads as currencies for exchange of goods and services. Whatever their vast and varied origins, beads remain a staple of African culture today. Each week, we bring you new travel videos, articles and travel tips on destinations in more than 90 countries. These are produced by a rigorous process whose end result is several layers of alternating colors. As a sign that a woman had reached marriageable age and could now have suitors Strung with bells, to show that a woman was still pure as at the time of marriage. The Fulani, hereditary nomads who range throughout a third of the continent, favor brightly colored glass beads. Beads are some of the most wonderful inventions of mankind! The use of beads in Africa can be traced back at least 12,000 years. Perhaps they should be. 1. These are the Top 15 Highest Grossing Nollywood Movies of all time. Many other societies in Nigeria had unique uses for their beads, such as for attracting members of the opposite sex, and as play items for young children and adolescents. Get our latest stories on travel around the world delivered once a month to your inbox. With a subscription profile, you automatically receive updates without having to return to the website and check for changes. Various tribes of the Turkana people who range from northern Africa down to modern-day Kenya used beads as currency and they were commonly paid as marriage dowries and used for the purchase of cattle. The earliest African beads were made from shell, bone, horn, seeds, teeth, ivory,… There are many anthropologists who believe this art form traveled over the now lost Aleutian land bridge when Asia and the Americas were connected long ago. Its used mostly by prostitutes. In Ethiopia, men and women of the Hamer tribe both wear headbands, armbands, necklaces and chokers of beads and in the Great Rift Valley, the Iraqi people work beaded designs onto their clothing that is in great demand by collectors. >>Continue to Bead Making Tools With this said, below are 7 significance and uses of the african waist beads. In Malawi, they create vibrant glass beads that favor floral patterns while in Mozambique, indigenous gemstones are a popular medium. Numerous tribes have not only become masters of bead production and their use as decoration but have garnered worldwide reputations as artists of this milieu. Africans often used beads for currency and wealth storage, and social status could be easily determined by the quality, quantity and style of jewellery worn. When foreign seafarers and explorers began to infiltrate Africa around the 14th century they brought glass chevron beads with them to trade for safe passage. The quality of beads used represents the social status of the wearer, especially is the worry beads are made of silver or amber. The wearing of beads on the waist was made popular by West Africans, specifically Nigerians. Glassmaking was not common in Africa. They are a symbol and celebration of womanhood, sexuality, femininity, fertility, healing, spirituality, body shaping, first menses, protection, seduction, and wealth, amongst other things. Most societies in Africa use them for adornment. Africans also used beads to communicate. Beads were used as part of African religious rituals, thereby increasing their value and respect. By subscribing, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. Check out our Real Snake Vertebrae Beads from Africa, to see for yourself. For the next seven centuries, beads were the driving force of the African economy. In Africa, waist beads were usually used to signify the changes a female body goes through over the years. “Money is called currency for a reason; it comes and goes like a current. The majority of beads in Ghana are made in by the Ashanti and Krobo people in the Krobo region. Sexuality. The day also... Heartbreak Day: Why Slave Families Were Terrified of New Years Day, Genna: An Ethiopian Christmas Celebrated On January 7th, Black Billionaires: Top 15 Richest Black People in the World (2021), 7 Little Known Facts About The Atlantic Slave Trade, Top 15 Highest Grossing Nollywood Movies Ever (Updated: 2021), The Top 7 Effective Ways To Reduce your life Expectancy And Die Young In Africa, 7 Deadly Terror Groups Currently Operating In Africa, 10 Incredible Stories About The Exploration Of Africa, 12 Disturbing Facts About Child Marriage In Africa, Meet Orompoto, The First and Only Female Alaafin Of Oyo. Group Culture Coordinator & Researcher Rukariro Katsande weighs in on the significance of beads in African culture… The term African Beads is used to refer to both beads locally produced by indigenous people of the African continent and Trade Beads that have travelled from other parts of the world and now circulate or were recently sourced from Africa. We will use the information you provided to email our newsletter as requested. Aggri (or Aggrey) beads are a traditional form of currency, exchange and method of payment in Africa. African trade beads or slave beads may be antique beads that were manufactured in Europe and used for trade during the colonial period, such as chevron beads; or they may have been made in West Africa by and for Africans, such as Mauritanian Kiffa beads, Ghanaian and Nigerian powder glass beads, or African-made brass beads. Best World Travel: Travel Magazine, Travel Writing, Vacations and Trips, Home > Destinations > Africa > Kenya > Beads of Time: The Role of Beads in Africa, By James Michael Dorsey //Leave a Comment. Waist beads is also seen as a sign that a woman have reached marriageable age and can now have suitors. There are iconic images we all associate with certain places; the Great Wall with China and the Eiffel Tower with France. Many other societies in Africa had unique uses for their beads such as for attracting members of the opposite sex, and as play items for young children and adolescents. Beads were infamously utilized during the slave trade, African Kings and merchants traded glass beads for captured slaves. Colorful, small beads (similar to our Christmas Beads here at The Bead Chest) are intricately woven upon thin twine, to create asymmetric, over-sized designs with long, fringed embellishments. Cowry shells can be found throughout Africa and … Your email address will not be published. The uses of beads in Africa are as varied as the materials used to make them. In my travels, I have also uncovered beads made from cork and fish bones, horn, ivory, metal, ceramic and wood. Formerly used as a trading currency, these beads are named after the region where they’re made. This created a high demand for trade beads in Africa. “The shells mean a lot, they were used as currency in many countries in Africa,” Goodwin says. The beads are created from layers of powdered glass mixed with dyes and poured into moulds. Typically, only the partner a woman chooses would have the honor of seeing them fully. The "love letters" of the Zulu tribe manipulate the colors and patterns of beaded offerings to one's suitor in order to convey secret messages. Dating back to 1500 B.C very prevalent role in modern Krobo culture our Terms Conditions! 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