Africa Jewelry: The significance of African beads

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  • Thursday, 24 April 2014 16:50
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Africa Jewelry: The significance of African beads

African beads play a significant role in African culture, past and present. Africans bestowed great significance to their cultural artifacts, one of them being their beads. The color, size, shape and region on the body that the beads were worn meant many different things among them.

Large and colorful beads symbolized wealth and social status in many African societies. The Egyptian nobles were known for adorning even their pets with beads. Nigerian kings also wore beads on themselves to show their royalty.

There were African beads that were worn for fertility, especially by women around their waists. In Uganda, it was a common practice for married women to wear beads around their waists to appeal to their husbands sexually, and young women were taught to use these beads to satisfy their future spouses.

African beads were also used for trade. Ceramic and recycled glass beads would be exchanged for food or livestock and were used as an early means of currency. In some West African countries, trade beads have their own special markets because they have become precious and rare- they can be used as a method of investment.

Beads also played a big role in the beliefs of African societies. Many amulets and charms consisted of beads. These would be thrown on a mat by the flick of a wrist to determine one’s fortune; they could be contained in guards which would be shaken to ward off evil spirits. Beads were used as part of African religious rituals, increasing their value and respect for beads.

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 therefore had a big part to play in African cultures and held great meaning to those that believed in them.

Today, some of the more popular African trade beads are Ghana Recycled Glass beads and Kenya Bone beads.

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Lauren, a professional communications expert from South Africa, loves to learn new languages and cultures. She is always willing to share her expertise on the African culture and lifestyles. Through her social interactions with others, she decided her own social projects in her homeland to launch Africa.

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