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These Hands- Agomanya Bead Market


Introduction - “In Ghanaian

traditions, beads are made
Figure 1- Bodom beads made by In this sense, the use of beads is
the Krobo people.
of seeds, pieces of wood,
shells, stones, bones, tusks highly gender sensitive. As
or modern materials like glass and plastics, formed, articles used for beautification,
polished and pierced to be strung and used as bodily beads are mainly used by women
adornments or as decoration for other objects. Beads for body decoration and for
seem to be more in use in southern Ghana than in northern expressing and enhancing the
Ghana. Wherever they occur, however, they are treasured quality of femininity in a woman. Figure 3- Square, Eye, and
Orobo (Ananse) Beads
as valuable objects of material culture, and play a
significant role in some of the most important aspects of How Beads Are Used - Beads
our personal and communal life, from the proverbial are put on the wrists and waist of newly born boys and
cradle to the grave,” (George P. Hagan – Consultant on girls; but, while they stay as the adornment for a boy for
Culture & Development at the launching of the first not more than a year or two, they stay as adornment for a
international beads festival Odumase Krobo, 2009). girl for life. For both sexes, however, beads feature in the
celebration of life in most traditional rites of passage to
When Beads Are Used - Throughout Afrika and the mark the major transitions and stations in life.
diaspora, beads are used to symbolize significant moments
in our development, including; birth, puberty, spiritual Among the Krobo people, found mainly in central Ghana,
initiation, marriage, and death, for example. beads also represented a form of money and the more of
them you had the richer you were considered. In the
In Ghanaian traditions, such as among the Asante people 1600’s-1800’s they were used as trade beads; which were
and the Krobo people beads are mainly used as articles of used to trade many things. Unfortunately, these beads
body decoration. were also used to trade our people as slaves, and one bead
However, in a wide of a certain type was worth as much as 7 Afrikans.
range of contexts beads Therefore, beads also hold a strong cultural and historical
are used, not only to meaning for us that is both complexed and powerful.
enhance the body but People collect them to remember these aspects of our story
also to symbolize and that they represent. Having Afrikan beads is not just a
express many different means to participate in our culture, but for some of us
ideas. throughout Afrika & the diaspora, it is a way of reclaiming
Figure 2- Square Ntaka beads made our who we are, honoring where we came from, and
by the Krobo people. empowering ourselves despite our painful history.

Assignment: As you go through the market ask the sellers about the beads they have. Ask the name of the bead; is it a
Ntaka bead, a Bodom bead, or another type? Find out which group of people make them, and if particular beads have
a special use; such as for a specific ceremony. Fill in the chart below as you explore the market. Get at least one of
each type to take home and add to your personal bead collection.

Name of the Bead Purpose of the bead Name of the people who Material it is made Description (color, shape, size,
(birth, marriage) made it (Asante, Krobo) of (glass, metal) design)