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BEADS IN OUR LIVESpdf print preview print preview
25/03/2015Page 1 of 2
 
There are many stories about the origin of beads. Some say that bodom and precious stones are found at the point where the rainbow meets the earth. According to these stories, stone beads can be found after heavy thundering rains and are believed to have been rained down during the storm.
Despite the stories about the origin, the important uses of beads in the life of Man make it interesting cultural subject worthy of consideration. Studies indicate that the use of beads has been of great antiquity. In the authoritative works of Anquandah, he points out the use of stone beads as early as the Late Stone Age around 3000 – 2000 BC. Quartz, shell, bone, stone and ceramic beads have been found in early agricultural settlements and have been dated from 2000 – 500 BC. One such site was Boyase hill near Kumasi, capital of Ashanti Region. Daboya in Northern Ghana has also yielded similar evidence. Contact with traders from other parts of West Africa, in the interior of the territory dating from medieval times and with Europeans from the fifteenth century on the coast, introduced into the bead culture of the peoples of Ghana beads from Timbuctu, Egypt, the Middle East, India, Italy and Holland. (Anquandah, 2003)
In Ghana beads made from a variety of materials can be found. There are beads made from materials such as bones, stones, coconut shells, glass sea shells, clay, brass, seeds and wood among others. Some are locally manufactured whilst others are imported.
Beads are one of the most intriguing phenomena of the Ghanaian symbolic culture; they speak much about the past, present and future. The bead represents the link between heritage, creativity and change. It is a symbol of links among the people of Ghana in a complex and ancient network to a wide range of peoples the world over.
Beads come in different colours and shapes and can be used to depict particular moods of the wearer such as joy, pain, grief and pride among others. Traditionally among the Dangmes and the Ewes for instance, small strings of white beads are worn as necklaces and wrist bands by nursing mothers during the first three months to depict victory over any misfortune that would have occurred in the process of conception and child birth.On the other hand, a brown or black string of the same type of beads is worn by a woman who has lost the husband. The colour of beads, their shape, size and the materials out of which they are made are all imbued with deep meaning which enables the beads to speak volumes.
Just like many other objects, beads are believed to have some powers imbued in them. People, especially old women are often accused of transferring witchcraft to younger ones through strings of beads put on their waist or wrists. In the same vein, oracles and diviners throw beads to fortell, warn and promise clients of their future. For instance, in the Dagme area, this power in the bead is shown in the belief that the bodom bead is very powerful and so people cannot lie in the presence of the bodom bead oracle. The bead is thought of as a living entity with the ability to breathe and reproduce. The Cowries, another type of bead, is also known as having the capability of attracting lightening and is also used mostly by people holding ritual office in Ewe culture.
In most Ghanaian societies, especially in Southern Ghana, beads are used during the rites of passage. Among the Dangmes, and Ewes for instance, a baby is welcomed into the world by the paternal grandmother by being given a bead bracelet. This type of bead is usually one medium sized koli bead strung on a cord together with a gold nugget and this is usually worn as a bracelet by the baby. Strings of beads are also worn around the waist and around the knee; it is believed that the beads help to shape the waistline and the calves of the wearers. They also help to monitor the growth of the child as when the child outgrows the beads, the beads get tight and they are changed. The waist beads of babies also serve as support for cloth napkins worn by the babies.
Among the Dangmes, especially the Krobos, families purchase and keep an heirloom of beads which they use for the females in the family after they have gone through the puberty rites. After a girl’s first menstruation, she goes through seclusion during which period she goes through the orientation of home keeping, child bearing and training and communal responsibilities. At the end of the orientation, the young woman is adorned with colourful beads around her waist, neck, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles.
 
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