Beads can be considered as one of the oldest jewelries in the Ghanaian culture. Initially men wore beads made from teeth and bones as pendants. Beads have become an indispensable decorative item used by almost every culture or tradition in Ghana.
Even though in the past, beads were used at a point in time as a form of art, trade currency or symbol of social or spiritual status, now it is used more for fashion than any other purpose. However, in some traditions, when a child is baptized and named 7 days after birth, a bracelet with 2 or 3 small beads is placed around the neck. This is for protection and others believe it is to strengthen the neck of the child. Again traditionally, girls wear waist beads offered by their mothers when they become adolescents. This marks their passage into womanhood during an initiation ceremony, known as “Dipo” among the Krobos. The beads around the neck are carefully chosen so as to convey information to her potential suitors, such as her family background and wealth. The waist beads are offered as a token of good luck throughout life.
Beads are not only believed to protect the wearer from harm, to heal and rejuvenate but also as a means to enhance the woman’s confidence in her femininity and beauty. It is also said that bigger beads are purposely used in some cases when the young woman reaches her sexual maturity, so that the waist beads could produce a subtle sound to draw the attention of the young men. It is exciting to know that the youth of today enjoy using beads.
Laura who makes a living from the beads business tells me ”even though the economy is hush and prices keep increasing by the day, business is good”.
Beads do not only play a significant role in the country’s rites and customs, but also in every aspect of everyday life. The colours used in making beads attractive and beautiful have different expressions, however some are common and cut across all traditions and cultures in the country. Gold refers to the sun and is a sign of wealth and power, Green refers to nature and can induce prosperity and fertility, Brown refers to the Earth and help with stable mood, Yellow brings energy, bliss and joy to women and is also often associated with maturity and wealth, Black brings protection against harm and gives strengths and power, Red instils self-confidence to women, Blue is a mark of loyalty, purity, honor and truth, Pink refers to the beauty, compassion, kindness and love, Purple is a sign of royal power and great wisdom, Orange instils confidence and charisma, White can evoke fertility.
By Cindy Sagoe
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