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    Jennifer Festus



      Every tribe in Africa has its own fashion culture and each fashion statement is always so symbolic. The Igbo people of the Eastern part of Nigeria have a unique culture and their attires are not random.


      The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, they are primarily found in Abia state, Imo state, Enugu state, Ebonyi state, Anambra state, and a sizable population is also found in Delta and Rivers.


      In the Igbo land, the beads are highly respected ornaments. The use of beads for adornment and beauty purposes among the Igbo people dates back to as early as 500 BC; this is indicated by some ancient artifacts, such as the Igbo Ukwu arts, wearing of beads has for centuries been a prominent feature of the traditional attires of the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria. There are different beads for different occasions, different titles, and statuses. For instance, there are beads only won by the title-bearing, cap-wearing honorary group, while the maidens wear some. Most of the beads in ancient Igbo culture were made with corals, bones, cowries, and shells.


      Usually, the maidens wear their beads around the waist, wrist, neck, arm, or ankle. The beads won on the waist usually represent fertility. Most beads signify royalty, wealth, or chieftaincy and some are forms of protection from evil forces. Brides and Grooms in the Igbo land also wear it, because they believe it has protective powers and it also answers prayers. Most of the beads have spiritual sentiments.


      The coral beads are a fashion accessory used by most brides and grooms in the Igbo during their weddings. For the brides, it may be the one time their necks are adorned with bright orange strings as they show royalty. The precious coral beads are peculiar elements of their attire. This accessory has come throughout the history of the Igbos and it is still widely used. There are some special designs of coral beads that only chiefs wear.


      There are also some coral beads that have spiritual significance; they are believed to have special powers (ase) to protect from curses and this is why they are usually specific to a particular group of people.


      The waist beads, known as mbaji are very popular among young maidens and married women. They are usually very colorful and come in different attractive colors, sizes, and designs. Usually, more than one string of beads is worn at a time and they are delicately balanced on the hips and placed in a captivating way.



      Traditionally, an Igbo bride’s wedding attire is incomplete without the waist beads. Her waist is adorned with several strings of beads, and the jiggling of these beads as she dances towards her husband with a cup of wine in her hands is very pleasing to the eyes.



      Moreover, aside from being a significant traditional ornamental among Igbo women, as earlier stated waist beads also depict wealth, fertility, and feminity in the Igbo culture.



      Whether worn on the wrist, arm, ankle, waist, or neck, they are very symbolic but also show the effort the Igbo tribe put into their fashion and creativity.

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