Many believe that the history of waist beads began in ancient Egypt, where they were called “girdles” and women wore waist beads as a status symbol. In West Africa, the tradition was made popular, most notably in Ghana and Nigeria. Waist beads are worn as a celebration of womanhood, sexuality, femininity, fertility, healing, spirituality, body shaping, protection, and wealth.

Though the meaning of a waist bead's color varies from culture to culture and tribe to tribe, the colors' significance is considered very important and powerful in many African communities. 

Below are some meanings of waist bead colors: 


graphic of different bead names and meanings


Today, waist beads are worn by women of all shapes, races, ethnicities. Women of all backgrounds can participate in the African tradition of waist bead wearing to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of African culture.