A lover of beads is one of the few things I could be described as. Whereas some would say bracelets or necklaces made with metals (with some being personalized) is the “ish”, I also say beads make me feel like a rockstar. Should our paths cross, you would realize this truth. Meet me on my way to church and you’d see different beads (hardly one in number)in its beautiful colors on my wrist and around my neck.
Sometimes, I wonder how I came to love beads and hardly wanting to step out without at least one being on my wrist. Get for me a gift of anything bead-like or a purely African made bead and I will be indebted to you as compared to the metal stuff.
Once when I found myself in a town where beads were like an everyday routine some people made as a handiwork, I just couldn’t help but just stare. I lost track of time due to how beautiful I found the art with the blend of the bed colors till someone tapped me on the shoulder. “Young lady, I’ve been watching you from a distance and you’ve not moved from where you’ve been standing. Is everything alright?” That came from an old woman and I just couldn’t help but feel a mixture of shyness and joy. Grandma, it’s nothing really but I just love beads and having chanced on how it’s being done has made me glued to my spot. Come with me, she said and we started walking with her doing much of the talking.
Beads have been in existence thousands of years and they are locally produced by indigenous people of the African continent and trade beads that have traveled from other parts of the world. Some beads are arts which is a family tradition where tools and techniques are passed on from one generation to the other. Being a handmade art, it is labor intensive but it is rewarding as it comes in different varieties of beauty.
Beads are made from different things which include stones, clay, plant materials like palm nuts and bamboo stems, animal materials such as bones and marine shells and amazingly currently with glass.
Beads in our part of the world are worn at ceremonies such as coming of age, circumcision, marriage, burial and local festivities. But on any normal day, you will find for yourself people who have some on their wrists or necks.
Beads I interestingly found out had meanings and they ranged from pride, beauty, culture and power.
As if by coincidence, we chanced on a ceremony in the town. As observing as I am, I noticed beads almost everywhere. But I realized some were very different from others. Some came in big forms and was worn by a man I thought for myself as being really important. I asked the woman how come my beads are smaller as compared to his. She then told me there are beads means for both sexes; the males have theirs bigger and females a bit smaller.
She continued to say beads worn have different meanings. Should an ignorant person wear just any bead, someone who has knowledge about it will find it out of place. Before we could part ways, she realized aside from the beads I had on, there was a particular one I wore alone on my wrist. She asked why and I said that was a gift from my mum. Interesting, she said and then tasked me to take very good care of it because unlike the others, this particular one is an ancient but really good bead which is very scarce to find currently. I couldn’t feel any happier because I was just basking in my mom’s praise.
Come what the meaning may be, I would always prefer a blend of it all because what I would love to always portray is the beauty of beads.
WRITER- Millicent Fornyikpor