The Hausa ethnic group is arguably the largest tribe in present day Nigeria. Usage of beads for beautification purposes in the Hausa culture transcends to as far back as hundreds of decades ago. This is evident in the display of beads in various archeological artefacts obtained from among the Hausa tribe of northern Nigeria.
Several types of beads are worn on different parts of the body by both Hausa men and women, young and old alike. The Hausa people are very aesthetic-minded and wear beads to adorn their ankles, necks, wrists, waists, etc.
In traditional Hausa societies, waist beads, called Jigida in the local language, are quite common and are equally worn by both young and old women. It is not in anyway unusual to see a newborn female Hausa child with beads round her waist. Typical hausa waist beads are tinier in size, and may consist of plastic, glass, wood, bones, cowries and shells.
Although predominantly worn for beautification, waist beads are also worn for other purposes apart from ornamental in Hausa tradition. There are claims that some waist beads possess spiritual powers and are used for warding off evils, for preserving their virginity, or stopping a girl child from getting raped.
Till date, waist beads are still very popular among Hausa females. Most wear it simply as an adornment, to enhance their feminity and sensuality. Hausa girls are naturally beautiful and according to their perception of beauty, a slim waist is a very important measure for looking good. Therefore, adorning a female baby with waist beads is believed to help accentuate her waist and retain the slim feature.
Jigida waist beads on a little Hausa girl.
It is also alleged that waist beads are worn by Hausa maidens to give out a signal that they are ripe and ready for marriage. To understand the latter, it is worthwhile to note that Hausa girls married pretty early, and therefore a mother may adorn her twelve year old in waist beads to indicate that the child is matured and ready to be given off in marriage to a suitor.
Basically, among the Hausa people Jigida symbolizes feminity, beauty and virginity.