The first time I told my mom I wanted to start wearing waist beads, I expected a lecture, something about how our generation had embraced the wrong path with our full chest and had no regard of what is considered proper; it was a speech I had heard many times before. But I was in for a surprise. My mom simply sighed and began to regal me stories of how she wore waist beads in her youth. Her stories were about moonlight dances and how the ladies picked attractive beads that would stand out, tying and retying them with durable strings so the beads could survive many dances, she even asked to see pictures of the ones I wanted to buy.
I know there’s a lesson somewhere about parents having social lives before we were born. Still, it made me look at how people automatically assume that the trend of wearing waist beads, chains, anklets and even getting piercings automatically started from the woke Gen Z generation or that it was something foreign introduced by the West; when the truth is that it began from our backyards, literally. Waist beads, particularly, have been used since the 15th century for adornment, to show coming of age in women, weight monitoring among many other things. However, there’s a problem when the main argument to not wear waist beads erases the good it’s used for, the tradition of celebration that it was associated with in the past and only amplifies the bad stories.
It again begs the question of why we are always quick to tag anything related to our culture as just voodoo or black magic, full stop. There’s just not enough credit given to the brilliant and exquisite craftsmanship left behind by our forefathers, Artisans that created history over slow, clay ovens, A history so rich that even after decades of slave trade and suffering, it still survived.
Now, whenever someone comes with some misguided notion of why I shouldn’t wear waist beads, I know how to stand my ground and reply. Sis, it is totally acceptable to not want to wear a fashion accessory that is not Nigerian-parent friendly (my parents will probably be against anything concerning piercings till forever). Still, it is also very helpful to avoid parroting ideas without being self-aware of where those thoughts come out from. Maybe there are spiritual things at work in this world that we live in, but contrary to popular belief, the root of African culture is not evil.