ONE of the many ornaments that have dominated women's femininity and sexuality from time immemorial in Africa are waist beads.
Long before women started wearing modern day underwears when they used pieces of cloth to cover their private parts, beads were the anchor for women's clothes.
Traditionally worn under clothes by African women, waist beads have several different meanings.
Ranging from rites of passage to enticing one's husband, to healing and rejuvenation.
The art of adorning one-self has been practiced since the beginning of time.
In Egypt, waist beads were called "girdles" and all the women wore them as uniform for pre-pubescent girls without any sexual connotation.
Among several enticing acts and practices, the women had to wear bed time accessories like waist beads to charm her husband sexually.
But whenever she was menstruating she took them off or threw a red bead on the bed as a sign to the husband that she was not available for any sexual encounter at a particular period of the month.
Waist beads steeped in tradition have a long history in Africa dating back to ancient times when they were worn for various purposes.
They still remain a symbol and celebration of womanhood, sexuality, feminity, body shaping, first menses, and seduction, amongst other things.
The meaning of the colours and different shapes of beads varies with every tribe and they can be thought of as a visual dialect.
Each bead, colour, and shape relays a different message depending on the receiver.
Looking into it deeply, many women have used waist beads as an instrument of body shaping especially on the girl child.
There is so much beauty and history behind waist beads just as there are more than mere shapes, colours and sizes.
Each string of bead holds tradition, values, and customs and acts as a form of expression or as a fashion statement.
Some women wore different shapes of beads only during intimacy as a means of enhancing sexual experience with their husbands.
Wives would often lure their husbands with the rattle of the beads or use them as a means of communication to their husbands to get their attention.
Unfortunately, today the culture of wearing beads for husbands has left the bedroom with waist beads now being flaunted in public.
The waist beads, which are only supposed to be shown to a woman's husband when in the bedroom, are now seen in the corridors, buses, offices and other public places.
Now women are even wearing waist beads which have been relegated to other controversial garments like G-strings just to attract the attention of men and provoke their sexual desires or wet their sexual appetites.
Nowadays, the strings of beads worn by some women are exposed deliberately especially those clad in low cut trousers with the aim of catching the eye of unsuspecting men for seduction purposes.
Women should understand the value of beads they are wearing because it is part of their body enhancement that should be covered.
Because of this 'indecent exposure' of waist beads, the original purpose of wearing waist beads is fading gradually because of fashion and ignorance.
One woman who tried to bend to pick up a pen in public got embarrassed when the strand of waist beads fell to the ground in full view of on-lookers.
According to tradition, public display of waist beads is unacceptable.
Modern culture has embraced the wearing of waist beads and many women prefer to wear them under their clothing only to be seen by themselves or their spouses.
Some men spoken to claimed that beads are traditionally good but the dressing of nowadays was exposing them thus diluting their value.
The coming of both modernity and Christianity have somehow relegated the value of beads to 'primitive' behaviour which was considered obscene, dirty and a practice for wayward women.
It is from this background that some people view the wearing of beads with suspicion.
Some now consider the practice as something dirty and meant for ladies or children with no moral upbringing.
This school of thought now believes that whoever wears waist beads is wayward and is trying desperately to attract men.
Like it is not so common among Christian women for spiritual reasons to them, beads have a demonic connotation.
Hence it should not be treated as one of the ornaments to seduce the spouse or to lure innocent men into the sexual act.
Whatever the argument, there seems to be more evidence that beads have a visual and sensual appeal that awakens sexual desire in men.
However, wearing them should be restricted to the bedroom if they are to serve their intended purpose.
Traditionalists even advise that buying waist beads need strict precautions and thus measures should be taken on how to wear them and when.