Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964623 | Print ISBN: 9781412936361 | Online ISBN: 9781412964623| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Beads are a vital part of material culture throughout Africa and simultaneously serve sacred, secular, social, and aesthetic functions. In West Africa in particular, beads adorn the hair and body in the form of headdresses; earrings; necklaces; arm, wrist, and ankle bracelets; belts; and sashes. Beads also adorn everyday and ceremonial clothing, as well as sculptures, charms, fetishes, and other ritual objects. In the past, beads were used as currency in some areas. Beads express personal style, but also convey social standing, wealth, age, marital status, cultural, and spiritual affiliation. For example, in Benin, a beaded cuff bracelet with a diamond pattern would identify the wearer ...