Waist beads in igbo culture

The Significance of Waist Beads in Igbo Culture

The Igbos are one of the three largest ethnic groups that make up the Nigerian nation. The use of beads for adornment and beauty purposes among the Igbo people dates back to as early as 500BC.  As indicated by some ancient artifacts, such as the Igbo Ukwu arts, wearing of beads have for centuries been a prominent feature of the traditional attires of the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria.

In the Igbo culture, both men and women wear beads. From the poor farmer to the royal queen, beads of all types are used to adorn and decorate different parts of the body. These beaded decorations can commonly be seen during festivities and traditional ceremonies. Most of the beads in ancient Igbo culture were made with corals, bones, cowries and shells. They are usually worn on the neck, wrist, arms, ankles, head, and waists.

 

Igbo Waist Beads

Waist beads, known as Mgbájí in the Igbo language, are very popular among both young Igbo girls and married women. These ornaments are typically made with beads, copper, corals, stones, etc and held together by a string or wire. Igbo waist beads come in different shapes, sizes and attractive colors.

Igbo waist beads
 

Usually more than one string of the waist beads are worn at a time, and the beads are delicately balanced at the hips just a bit above the rise of the buttocks. The dainty positioning and enticing movemement of Mgbájí as the maidens sways their hips is amazingly captivating.

Although presently these waist beads are mostly worn only for traditional Igbo ceremonies such as Igba nkwu (traditional marriage), no Igbo maiden ever joked with her waist beads in the past, and you can still find these Igbo waist beads in the homes of some elderly Igbo women.

In the olden days, Mgbájí is among the essential items the groom must present to the bride before marriage. Traditionally, an Igbo bride's wedding attire is incomplete without the waist beads. Her waist is adorned with several strings of beads; and the jiggling of these beads as she dances towards her husband with a cup of wine in her hands is very pleasing to the eyes.

Moreover, aside being a significant traditional ornamental among Igbo women, waist beads also depict wealth, fertility and feminity in the Igbo culture.

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