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A Woman's Body

In the perspective of African societies, a woman's body is a revered entity not only for its abilities to incubate, bring forth and nurture life, but also for its aesthetic beauty and uniqueness. Amongst the Igbo, the natural qualities of the female body are accentuated with colorfully-decorated waist beads often made from glass, cowry shells, cloth, brass, ivory and other precious materials.

These beads (known in various dialects as: 'jigida', 'olomkpo' or 'asi ukwu') are typically worn by adolescent girls and unmarried maidens. They are believed to symbolize a girl's femininity, virginity, and pureness in addition to 'training' her waist to grow in a curved manner, as is socially desirable.

During special occasions, female performers, such as the girl shown in the photograph, would be adorned with the variety of beads used for dancing. Performers would thrust their waists forwards and back, incorporating their beads as instruments in their dance.



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