THE WAIST BEAD MYSTIQUE.

“O tu ibebe si ‘le o
O tu gele si ‘le o
O tu kasa si ‘le o
To ba ni eh
Ma fi le o
Ah ibebe idi….bedebe badaba
Ah ileke idi….bedebe badaba
Ah ibebe idi….bedebe badaba
Ko ma gbon
Ko ma gbon
Ko ma gbon”

The lines above are from the hit song Ibeebe by Dj Exclusive featuring Olamide. The song is in praise of a woman’s waist bead Ibeebe. Why is a woman’s bead a thing of interest that made it worthy to be sang about? Hmmm?

Waist beads popularly called Ileeke di by the Yorubas, Jigida by the Hausas are strings of plastic, glass, wood often cut into round shapes with holes in the centre worn around the waist for beauty(to adorn the waist) , protection(against evil spirits), seduction(of the WEAK male folks) or in worship(in reverence of a deity).

When I was small, I was fascinated with the idea of waist bead, the fact that I can only wear it on my Aso-oke during graduation ceremonies in primary school where we have to present a cultural dance made it exotic to me. I didn’t have one of my own and I always savour the feeling during special occasions like graduations,
“It will make your waist shake very well” “your bumbum will be big” “you will be able to do asiko very well” people would say whenever they talk about waist beads, but that was when I was small.

I grew up hearing stories about how some end time women use waist beads to ensnare unsuspecting men, they said waist beads brew immorality and even if you have a chaste mind you would get corrupted once you wear it, there was a sermon I listened to on radio where the preacher was cursing girls and women that wear waist bead because there are some that wear it and intentionally board bikes and wear small tops that wouldn’t cover the the lower back. Ha, I started to run away from beads.

Then as I grew older the story changed, they said women use waist beads to lock the womb and prevent pregnancy and oh, it is very effective because nothing fast and furious without legs or arms but a strong head would be allowed entrance to the fertile land, nothing, they said.

I thought I had heard it all about waist beads and it brouhaha until my cousin brought it up one day again, she said a girl was bathing in her hostel and suddenly screamed, they rushed to the bathroom to meet the girl on the ground feverishly clutching at strings of bead that has some rolling in different directions on the rough, broken cemented slimy spirogyra floor, she said the beads glowed under the weak light of the bathroom and was very very attractive. The urge to pick it was so strong that some of them were eager to hold it and look harder at it until one Spirikoko Deeper life girl warned them against it. They took her to the Imam at the mosque because she is a Muslim and she began to confess that she is a witch and the beads broke into pieces because her powers have become weak blah blah blah. My cousin said the beads were burnt into ashes and the Imam requested the rest in the bathroom to be brought to him but alas, they couldn’t find any on the floor of the bathroom. Hmmm my fear of beads grew.

I began to resent people the way everyone does or so I thought, I thought karishikas wear waist beads, women sent from the marine Kingdom to seduce unsuspecting men and break homes. I don’t know what happened where or when my dismissal of all that is surrounding waist beads, but when I began to wear it I smugly raise the middle finger to who ever tells me otherwise.

Why is there so much palavar over waist bead? When I asked my Mummy to get it for me then she said wearing it would make people think I am a runs girl who wants to trap her sponsors, really? She said the women that sell waist beads add charm that makes sex sweet to it, attract men and there is no waist bead that is ordinary, eh! But I didn’t mind all she said because I love it and would adorn myself with it no matter what.

I get queries whenever I wear it, some had asked me why there are of a particular colour, some asked why they are so plenty, some asked if it is what makes my waist tiny(I am now fat in the waist thank you very much), some asked if I am an Ogbanje or an Emere, some asked if my parents got waist beads for me since I seem to act like an only child, only child keh? Ha

Some complimented me, they love the colour and the way it dances when bright light touches it, they love how it rests gracefully on me, they love the fact that I am a good Muslim who wouldn’t go completely naked in the bath and wear waist beads to keep Jinns at bay, Lord have mercy!

Nowadays, I try as much as possible to cover my waist when I am in my room in the hostel, lot of annoying questions as to why I wear waist bead, I can’t wear light clothes even when the temperature is “suffocatingly” high. I don’t want to be mistaken for an Ogbologbo runs girl or a marine spirit.

But when will people stop looking at waist beads with side eyes? When did something that used to be an object of beauty and coming of age turn into an instrument of destruction? Who has had any experience with waist beads or people who wear it? I love to hear from you #xoxo