For centuries, the Africans had a tremendously wide range of pearls and raw materials. Across the continent, many organic materials have been used for the manufacture of jewelry - for example, seeds, nuts, shells, bone, ivory and teeth. Every visitor to Africa encounters beads sooner or later, whether it's an Egyptian reciting the 99 names of Allah on his prayer beads, or the Maasai women in Kenya and Tanzania with their elaborate collars. From the intricate costumes of South Africa's Ndebele people to the rich adornment of Nigerian kings; from the markets of Morocco to the stalls of Senegal, beads are a way of life. Just what are these little bits of stone, glass, wood, seeds, metal, shell, teeth, clay, plastic and bone? Where do they come from, what do they mean, how are they used, what are they made of, why are they valued? Beads are an integral part of African history from time immemorial. They function as money, they possess power, they indicate wealth, they are spiritual talismans, and they form coded messages. In Africa there is no gender boundary in the realm of beads.
Both men and women wear beads for a variety of reasons including adornment and status. When a king dies, he is buried in his bwaantshy. Equally exquisite are the royal Kuba masks covered in beads and cowrie shells. These masks are thought to impart psychic powers to the king, enabling him to detect those who might plot against him. Further north are the Yoruba and Dahomian kings of Nigeria and Benin. Yoruba kings wear crowns that are cone-shaped and sport beaded veils. In Yoruba tradition, strands of beads are the emblems of the gods. In addition to geometrical designs, royal attire often features beaded representations of ancestors and creatures who facilitate communication with the spirit world.Such is the language of beads-a language rich in beauty and tradition, a language that tells the story of trade with foreigners, vast migrations, and vanished empires.
But jewelry was not only for adornment. Gold pendants were used as badges to signify high-rank. Cowrie shells were thought to increase fertility. Beaded amulets and talismans warded off evil spirits and had the power to cure illness. And jewelry played an important role in funerary equipment assigned to the departed.Whatever their origin, whatever their meaning, from the very simple to the very complex, from ancient to modern, African beads are exquisite works of art. They provide souvenirs and make ideal gifts for friends and family. As collectibles, antique and rare beads are excellent investments. Even a single old chevron is a singularly unique work of art. But most of all, beads have a practical function. They are portable and can be worn-their beauty shared.
Here at AlasheOla, we proudly bring to you some of beautiful collection of beads, from across Africa and beyond. Our beads are made with love, quality and authentic craftsmanship aimed at conveying a royal aesthetic and presence.