Waist Beads: The much-loved traditional artifact

Waist Beads
Waist Beads

Waist beads have been crucial accessories for women in the Ghanaian society for ages. They are traditional African accessories made from small glasses strung together on a string or wire and worn around the waist or the hips.

Origins and importance

Waist beads are common across the various ethnic groups. The Akans call it “torma”, the Gas call ashinor and in Ewe they are called “ali dzonu”.

It is also common among the Ada and Dangbe, and many other northern ethnic groups. They are of different sizes and colours depending on where they are made.

When a child is born in the Ghanaian society, a string or two beads are worn for him or her irrespective of their gender.

It is a cultural norm within most Ghanaian ethnic groups for a woman to wear one or more strings of beads on her waist. These norms are mostly adhered to by people of the rural societies and small towns.

Interestingly, in the urban areas or towns today, ladies still put on beads in respect to their culture and other personal reasons.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview, some women gave their various reasons for putting on beads.


Elizabeth Tetteh, a 22-year-old University of Ghana student believes that wearing waist beads gives a woman a curvy body shape. “Since I started putting on waist beads, it has given me the desired body shape I’ve always wanted,” she said.

Another young woman, Lisa Arthur, said waist beads made her beautiful. “Waist beads bring out the feminism in me and makes me glow all the time.”

The social construction of a beautiful woman here has a proportion, where measurement of the waistline is smaller than those of the bust and hips. The Ghanaian lady believes that wearing waist beads helps her to define her waist to meet ‘this standard of beauty’.

Benedicta said that she loved to put on waist beads because she wants to attract the attention of a man. “My man finds it attractive,” is probably the most common reason ladies put on the waist beads. They said it accentuates their waistlines.

Edwin, a husband, and a father said it is his joy to see his woman [wife] wear beads.

Other reasons women gave for the wearing beads include for heritage and pride, satisfaction and joy when they wear beads.

Beads on the waist also show some level of maturity in a woman to the man she chooses to please.

Keeping it neat

Some ladies mostly do not remove their waist beads or wash them, and this can harbour bacteria from the sweat of the body. It is therefore important that wearers clean them regularly in order to enjoy their use.

Spirituality and Fetishism?

Despite the joy in using waist beads, some people associate it with spirituality, witchcraft, and fetishism. Those people ascribe the practice of such arts in one form or another to persons especially ladies and women who put on waist beads.

Abdullahi Mohammed, a muslin in an interview said people should not condemn waist beads, and that they are beautiful.


‘Waist beads and are part of African culture and are beautiful. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing them. Let us stop discriminating against ladies that wear waist beads or anklets, he said.

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