If you had told me ten years ago that ankle chains and waist beads would be mainstream fashion accessories, I would have laughed you silly. Seriously, I grew up with a “different” conception. Seeing someone wearing them sent bone-chilling vibes down my spine; “she’s one of them”, I’ll murmur to myself.
What they told us
Ankle chains were meant for the “unfortunate” and “irresponsible” women who were also possessed by spirits; a hypothesis peddled by well-meaning (but going about it the wrong way) folks. That’s what we were told. What we were not told is that various cultures across the world, including Egyptian and Indian traditions considered wearing ankle chains a “piece de resistance“ for young women.
Then I read…
In ancient Egypt, wearing ankle chains made out of gold denoted your status as a wealthy woman. Less privileged women wore iron or copper bracelets. In India, new wives had bells attached to their ankle chains so their in-laws or any other person would know she was coming. It commanded a sort of respect for the young bride because you had to stop all forms of gossip and play nice. Wouldn’t that be a great tool to have in modern Nigeria? Forgive me, I digressed.
Why They Wore it
Waist beads have a deep cultural symbol, not just for certain tribes in Nigeria but also for several ethnic groups across West Africa, particularly in Ghana. Waist beads symbolize femininity, fertility, and more recently, serve as a guide to weight loss and proper body posture. They can be custom made to your preferences and needs; and rumor has it that some beads have healing elements. Which of course, depends on who crafted them and the stones used. Even the colors of the beads have meanings, who knew?
They told us that if you were unfortunate to get involved with these women, you would be lucky to get out unharmed. They told us these ladies can take our destiny and make us bend to their wills. These women, however, didn’t care about these talks. And today, ankle chains come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and have a whole lot of meanings attached to them.
The Question Still Remains
The big question is, can we consider these elements of culture and traditional fashion accessories? Or are they just mediums to fuel fetish purposes? Should we embrace them? Or should it be discouraged?
Fashion, as we know, is subject to personal interpretation as influenced and dictated by the fashion gods. In simple English, you can wear whatever you like as far as you do not commit a fashion blunder; and you are well within the boundaries of fashion expressivity. Was that simple enough? Lmao. I like to say that in the ever-changing dynamic that is fashion, there are conservatives and there are liberals and there are rebels.
Everyone fits into one of these groups, and the million and one subgroups that lie in between. So, some people are okay with wearing stuff, others have to thoroughly scrutinize it and may end up not subscribing to the idea, and others will wear if the occasion or their mood calls for it.
That said, it is safe to say that what you call “Fashion” might be trash to someone else, it all depends on the way you view it. Let’s talk about ripped jeans and dreadlocks – they are a non-negotiable straight ticket to the ugly beyond right? Lol, leave the judgment for the Lord bruh! Maybe, just maybe we would have had a different view to these accessories if they had jumped to the limelight earlier than now.
If ankle chains and waist beads had made a resurgence in the early 2000s, we may have welcomed them with wide-open arms. But, lately, with the advent of online voodoo workings and businesses and all the nasty tales that accompany them, people cannot help but be wary of what can be termed a simple accessory. And now, more than ever, the male folk and even some females are wary of females who wear these accessories. Except, of course, you have known the individual for a long time.
The Religious Role
Religious influences have played a role in the reluctant acceptance of these accessories. More conservative religions have very strict views about wearing these items. The more liberals tend to overlook them, provided they are concealed from public view, as much as possible. And because of how easily they are regarded as fetish items by a society, wearing them could cause several impressions that you may not be ready for. Yup, even from the most liberal people.
So, how do you deal with this? Just be ready for a mixed reaction. While some people will admire your fashion taste, others could brand you a beautiful witch. Some people do not hide their distaste for these items and are very vocal about it. Some don’t care, as long as you keep to yourself. Wearers of these accessories simply do not care what people think, and their partners do not seem to care either. However, a certain amount of discretion is advised. Proceed with caution. A stereotype exists for people who like these items, and most times, they are regrettably lumped with people who use these items for fetish purposes. This affair with waist beads and anklets is like a forbidden love story. Think Romeo and Juliet.
This is a sensitive topic and we stood as unbiased as possible. What we shared is simply our personal opinion. However, we would love to get your opinion on this.
What do you think about Ankle Chains and Waist Beads?
Do you think it’s a fetish symbol or good fashion? A piece of accessory that is vital to our tradition? Should it be discouraged or embraced?
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