When it comes to beautiful jewelries, perhaps Africa is best known for its ‘handmade’ beautiful bead work. 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.
Beads are used in various parts of Africa as adornment or works of art. Beads can be in form of an anklet, bracelet, waist chain, necklace, rings, and earrings e.t.c.
Most importantly, they served as adornment because it helps in defining and identifying someone’s status, as well as what tribe or group they belonged to.
The use of beads in Africa can be traced back at least 12,000 years. The oldest known beads have been found in the Kalahari Desert, Sudan and Libya.
The earliest beads were made of eggshell, clay, twigs, stones, ivory and bone – glass beads were introduced later by traders from Europe, India and the Middle East.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, millions of colored shell beads were shipped from European countries to Africa in exchange for slaves.
The beads made at that time were referred to ‘trade beads’ because they were used in exchange for goods or used as currency.