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Jigida-The Exotic Traditional African Waist Beads

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Lots of Beads

Lots of beautiful Beads

Lots of beautiful Beads

Types of waist beads

1 Jigida

2 Djalay Dijalay

3 Ileke-Idi

4 Yomba

5 Jel-Jelli

6 Giri-Giri

7 Bin-bin

8 Mgbanji

Jigida waist beads

The Jigida waist beads are a traditional ensemble of beads worn by young maidens in Africa during special occasions. Although the beads are common to both Yoruba, Igbo and Calabar traditions, they are also common in other regions of Africa.

The waist beads have different names according to the region like the Jel-Jelli waist beads of Senegal, and the Djalay Dijalay of Chad. All four regions of Nigeria have their own type of Jigida such as the Giri-Giri, the Ileke-idi of the Yoruba, the Yomba waist beads, and Jigida of Cross River/Calabar.

The Jigida waist beads are worn only on special occasions as a symbol of purity, beauty, and elegance. The beads though suggestive underline freedom, fashion and the true meaning of womanhood.

The waist-beads are usually the preserve of young teenage girls coming of age and it helps elaborate movement during traditional dances. The waist beads also have an economic and historical significance in African commerce, history, fashion, culture, and traditions.

Other countries that have many cultural beads are Ghana, Uganda, and Cameroon.

Traditional beads

Traditional beads are worn on special occasions around the neck, wrists and waist.

Traditional beads are worn on special occasions around the neck, wrists and waist.

Special occasions when they wear the beads

1 Coronations

2 Traditional marriage ceremonies

3 Coming of age

4 Traditional dances

5 Cultural displays

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6 The Jigida is worn as a fashion statement

They wear the traditional beads only on special occasions

They wear the traditional beads only on special occasions that include fertility dance, special celebrations, coronations, and cultural displays. Other occasions are traditional marriage ceremonies, religious occasions, coming of age, fashion, and religious activities.

Although they wear the beads mostly on special occasions, some women wear them under their cloths on regular days as part of their outfit. The practice of wearing them under their cloths is to look more shapely and appealing.

The waist beads are the most common accessory worn during tradition marriage ceremonies especially the Eastern parts of Nigeria. Beads have high cultural significance in African tradition irrespective of how they are worn i.e. necklaces, wristbands, ankle bracelets, or waist beads.

Jigida waist beads

A woman Wearing jigida waist beads

A woman Wearing jigida waist beads

Traditional beads

Items used in making the waist beads

1 Coral beads

2 Pearl beads

3 Precious stones

4 Bones

5 Cowries

6 Brass

7 Gemstones

8 Shell

9 Clay beads

10 Glass beads

11 Ceramic

12 Plastic

What is the waist beads made from?

They make the beads from various items depending on the region, occasion, and status of the individual. The price of a waist bead could range from a few dollars to several thousands based on the composition.

The beads could by strung out of a single material or bounded by different precious stones to make a spectacular item. Items used to weave the Jigida waist beads include pearls, precious stones, glass beads, and clay beads, which are the most common type.

Other materials used to make the African waist beads are brass, gemstones, shells and in some remote areas bones. They weave the beads into a single strand or multiple strands dependant on the region, artisanship, and function.

Some beads in remote areas are interlaces with charms and amulets especially those used for certain ceremonies. Traditional waist beads because of the different components come in various colors like yellow, blue, white, red, orange, and other earthy colors.

The beads might be strung using small materials or infused with larger stones, coral beads, or clay beads. The materials used in Jigida waist beads are identical to those used as bracelets, necklaces, and wristbands.

The materials used to make the Jigida waist beads are usually strung along a cord with intricate care. They are usually interlaced with pearls, precious stones, and gemstones making them breathtakingly beautiful, elegant, and pleasing to the eye.

How to make waist beads

Medicinal properties

Although the medical properties of Jigida waist beads are not substantiated, locals believe it aids circulation and child bearing. Some regions use the beads for birth control, healing, and protection.

Other customs introduce essential oils and herbs to the beads and other natural substances to aid circulation and other religious practices. However, the beads are essentially a fashion accessory and a woman’s social status, and place in society.


The Jigida waist bead dates back to early history of Africa lifestyle and traditions. It plays a prominent role in fashion accessories, beauty regimen, and cultural practices of Africans. They are worn bellow the belly and are visible under native blouse or tank top.

Although the Jigida has gone through lots of modernization, the significance and importance of the waist beads would remain part of African tradition for years to come.

Waist beads

© 2015 femi


femi (author) from Nigeria on March 08, 2015:

Thanks for the comment CatherineGiordano

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on March 08, 2015:

Waist beads are very interesting. I did not know about this. Thanks for the information. Gave it an I.

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