Waist beads are traditional accessories made from seeds, glass beads or crystal stones worn around the waist. Waist beads have been worn by African women as a symbol of femininity and prosperity for centuries and it is believed to have been in existence since the 15th century.

Waist beads are popular across Africa. According to Google Arts & Culture, “Beads were first made in Africa from organic materials – like bone, shells and seeds – many thousand of years ago.” African women have traditionally worn these beads as a symbol of femininity, attraction and sexuality.

Women use it to adorn or accentuate their waistline thereby making their hips appear bigger and flexible. It is one of the best selling accessories in west Africa.

The Yorubas call it the “ileke” and they come in various shapes and sizes and suited for all body types.

These are some of the reasons people wear waist beads.

Body Ornament
Just like many other accessories such as watches, earrings, bracelets and necklaces that people wear on their bodies, a lot of women wear waist beads to beautify and adorn their body.

Sexual attraction
Some women wear waist beads because it is believed to attract the oposite sex. It is believed that waist beads stir up deep emotional responses. There is a saying that “it is the beads that make the buttocks to shake”.

Symbol of love
A few men purchase the waist beads for their special woman according to them, it’s a turn on.

Ceremonies and festivals
During traditional marriage rites, the brides wear more waist beads to accentuate her features.

It is also believed that seeing a woman’s waist beads is the same as seeing her nakedness.

Contraception
Although there is no scientific evidence to back it up, some women adorn ‘special’ waist beads to either prevent or induce pregnancy. Some are worn to provide protection for the mother and growing baby.

Weight control
Some women wear waist beads to keep track of their weight. Due to the fact that waist beads don’t stretch, you can use it to gauge the size of your waist. When you gain weight, the beads will sit higher on the waist or feel tight. And if you were to lose weight, the beads will feel loose and fall further down to the hips.

Although waist beads are frowned upon by some people who deem it as fetish, it is fast becoming a trend.