Donning a waist bead also known as belly beads is a common practice among many Kenyan and African women and a cultural practice to serve many celebratory purposes.
Whirling masked spirits clad in raffia and laughing children daubed with clay dance across the pages of “African Twilight”, the latest book by two photographers documenting rapidly vanishing rituals across the continent.
So what exactly are waistbeads? Judging from the name itself, these are pieces of beads, glass,wood, dried fruits and even dried skin that is put together, mostly threaded or sewn around a woman’s waist for various reasons. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty and find out these reasons;
To experience a taste of African culture deep inside the Big Apple, visitors – including many Senegalese – turn to Le Petit Senegal (Little Senegal), a West African neighborhood in West Harlem, New York.
“The house was full of African masks and sculptures, like in museums. I told myself that if I go to Africa, I will collect them, too.”
Human ornaments made from perforated teeth and eggshell beads found in Bulgaria and Turkey dating back 41,000 to 43,000 years were first thought to be the oldest.
Twenty years ago on a sugar plantation in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Bev Gibson and Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela founded a collective called Ubuhle (pronounced uh-boo-klay), which means “beauty” in the languages of the local Zulu and Xhosa peoples. The women of Ubuhle live and work together, raising their children and crafting large, often searingly personal beaded textiles called ndwangos — in English, “cloths,” or “rags.”
Ornament production really took off about 50,000 years ago, when we see the earliest standardised jewelry in the form of small disc beads made from ostrich eggshells. In Africa, ostrich eggshell beads are one of the most common types of archaeological artifacts, particularly from sites dated to the last 10,000 years. They are also found in smaller numbers throughout Asia where 12,000-year-old ostrich eggshell beads have been discovered in China.
“Viola, from New Orleans-ah, an African Woman, was the 19th century’s rescue worker, a global business goods raker, combed, tilled the land of Commerce, giving America a certain extra extra excess culture, to cultivate it, making home for aliens not registered, made business of the finer, finer, had occupations, darning thread not leisure with reason and with luster, in ‘peek-a-boo’ racial disguises …”