BEADS– African Beads made of Natural Materials such as Clay, Shell, Stone and Bauxite have been discovered and dated to about 1450 B.C. Craftsmen and women would later include Broken Glass bought from European Traders around the 16th Century to make Beads.The word ‘BEAD’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Beade or Bede, means “Prayer. Beads are made from Natural and Artificial materials. Materials include Stone, Shale, Shell, Wood, Seeds, Straw, Teeth, Ivory and Bones. Some natural materials such as Gold, Tin and Iron generally need to be smelted or otherwise prepared before they can be made into Beads. Materials like Glass, Faience, China, Paper, Wax and Unglazed Pottery are used in Making Beads. Beads are an intricate part of African Culture and Heritage.
TRADING CURRENCY– Traditionally, Beads were used as a form of Trading Currency. To barter for Spices, Fabrics, Precious Metals, Salt, Gun Powder, Mirrors, Alcohol, and even Slaves in the 16th Century.
RITES OF PASSAGE– Africans use Beads in all the Stages of their Lives.
Both baby Boys & Girls are adorned with Necklaces, Bracelets and Anklets. Baby girls wear Waist Beads in addition. A Child Must be Given the la(Special Beads) and Given a Name on the eighth day to be recognized.
Mothers would decorate their daughters with Necklaces, Bracelets, Waist Beads and Anklets after their First Menstruation as a Ceremonial Rite of Passage into Womanhood and Adulthood. Our ancestors used Waist Beads to Anchor Menstrual Cloth known as Amonsin.
Brides and Grooms wear Beads during the Marriage Cerebration. Beads are also presented during Marriage Ceremonies as Gifts for the Bride from the Groom. Beads are used during the Laying in State and Funeral Rites.
Guests at Children Naming Ceremonies, Celebration of Puberty Rites, Marriages or Funerals wear beads of different colors and sizes. It is not a Taboo to not wear beads but they are such a Fundamental Part of our African Heritage so much so that its absence makes one feels incomplete.
AS A SPIRITUAL OBJECT– According to the African Folktale, whenever it Rained and there was a Rainbow, Some People followed the Rainbow to where it ended and found beads on the ground. These types of beads are referred to as ‘old beads’. The MεTε and Lε Beads are examples and therefore are considered Powerful because they are believed to be given to us by Nature/God so they Possess Special Powers.
Beads Inherited are used during the death of a member of the family. If a married woman dies, a single piece of the old beads such as MεTε or Lε is removed and added to the locally manufactured ones and strung together and put on the left wrist of the deceased. It is believed that when she reaches the ancestral land, the ancestors from her family would recognize her by the old bead on her wrist and give her a befitting welcome. Such beads are passed on from one generation to another.
Traditional Priests and Priestesses wear the Special Beads (La). It differentiates them from the rest of the members of the society. The Beads are believed to make them Powerful to carry out their duties as Priests and Priestesses. They give protection against Motor Accidents, Retrieve stolen or missing items and even Cause the Rains to Fall. Every Spirit has its Own Bead it Dwells in. All the Gods and Spirits that our ancestors worshiped have their own Beads.
Every piece possessed some legend or significance behind it. For example, legend says if you wear elephant hair bracelets you will be protected from harm and illness and you will be blessed with good fortune.
The NYOLI, KƆLI and TOVI are worn to protect that a person from bad energy.
CELEBRATIONS AND FESTIVALS- Queen Mothers Wear Big Beads whiles their subordinates wear Smaller Beads. It is disrespectful for a lesser ranked Queen Mother to wear the same type of beads with the Paramount Queen Mother. As adornment they were important in Defining and Identifying Someone’s Status, as well as Tribe or Clan they belonged.
FASHION STATEMENT – & ARTISTIC EXPRESSION- Several Women are involved in the Production and Sale of Beads in the Africa. Krobo produce 3 types of Glass Beads; translucent, powdered and painted glass beads. Modern Beads DO NOT have any powers in them. They are made from Clay or Broken Glass. Glass beads derive their color from the type of glass materials used. The beads are further decorated and carefully painted with a mixture of Ceramic Dye and Powdered Glass locally known as SƆSƆ to create a designs.Tribal jewelry in Africa were traditionally used to tell about something or to tell a story. Depending on the African culture and times.