Let’s Talk About Waist Beads & Cultural Appropriation!

 The conversation about cultural appropriation is a topic that Accessories By JJ LLC had many direct conversations about last year at our pop-up shops in Georgia. It is no lie that African waist beads are here to stay in the western world so why not enlighten people about cultural appropriation. At Accessories By JJ LLC, we are all about embracing cultural awareness. Before we can talk about cultural appropriation, lets define culture. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary culture means the following:

  • the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time, popular culture, southern culture
  • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization
  • the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

Now that we understand what culture means let’s define cultural appropriation. As we were doing research ourselves to capture the best way to express cultural appropriation from our understanding, we wanted to capture a definition that will be clear and concise to our readers when defining cultural appropriation. We came across a beautiful article by C. Raypole which I will site at the end of our article for your viewing. According to C. Raypole, Cultural Appropriation was defined as the following:

“Culture refers to the traditions, customs, beliefs, and practices of any given ethnic, racial, or religious group. Key elements of culture include:

  • language
  • art, music, and literature
  • clothing
  • social norms, customs, and values
  • history and government
  • religion and holidays

To appropriate, in basic terms, means to take without permission.

Cultural appropriation, then, happens when another culture “borrows” any of these cultural elements, typically without asking permission or crediting the source culture.

Appropriation also tends to involve some misuse of cultural elements. In other words, people who appropriate generally pick and choose only the elements they consider appealing and ignore the rest, along with any important cultural context behind those elements”.

If you want to learn and participate in a culture without exploiting for your own use you can do the following: (Insight by K. Holmes)

Examine your own culture. Through self-reflection, you will be better able to understand differences and determine what is important in cultures across the world.  If you realize that a specific aspect of your own cultural background is central to your identity, and it would offend you if someone were to use it without understanding fully what it means, consider that people all over the world, in cultures other than your own, may feel the same way.

Think about: Would I be offended if someone wore an important religious symbol from my culture without understanding what it truly means?

Listen First.  One of the best ways to understand and appreciate another culture is by listening to those who are a part of the fabric of that society.  Listen to their stories, understand the implications behind the aspects of their culture that you are interested in, and use that understanding to broaden your worldview. We have another blog post called, “What Are Waist Beads & Why Do Women Wear Waist Beads? Past/Present Day”, please refer to out article to get additional insight on the waist bead culture. If you would like to consult with us, please send us a message on our contact us page and we will get back to you within 48 hours.

Think about: Did I just take a piece of someone’s culture to use for my own benefit, without knowing the significance behind it? Did I ask about the origins of the custom, item, or symbol?  This is so important in understanding and appreciating a culture.

Share your own culture. The most important part of cultural exchange – and what best distinguishes it from appropriation is that exchange is mutual.  Through appreciation and exchange, you can share something about yourself, learn something about someone else, and partake in a mutual understanding of one another’s background and culture.

Think about: Am I equally interested in sharing a piece of my own language, food, customs, and traditions? Chances are that this person is just as excited to learn about my culture as I am about theirs.  What an incredible part of cultural exchange and appreciation! (Green Heart Club)


As the founder of Accessories By JJ LLC, a native Ghanaian American, I am ecstatic to share my culture and traditions to the world and those who are willing to respect it. I respect those who take the time to be culturally aware and appreciate other cultures. The downfall of a tradition becoming a trend is when you notice people creating their own rituals or false history of waist beads and spreading inaccurate information as if it is the truth. That is when it becomes cultural appropriation. A part of our brands mission is sharing the beauty of the African experience through our cultural items made by myself and the local artisans of Ghana. It is one of the reasons why we are passionate about encouraging our friends to embrace cultural awareness as we are in a beautiful nation full of diversity. Purchasing a machine made or factory-made waist beads for $1.00 is the epitome of cultural appropriation. It all comes down to acknowledging and giving credit to the source. If you are wearing African waist beads, purchase or made in Africa this directly borrows from the culture and supports the artisans who create the intricate waist beads with integrity. Replacing the traditional African artisans with a machine to pump out the product quickly and cheaply is cultural appropriation from our perspective. We know it is not easy to buy your waist beads directly from Africa. You can utilize vendors like us who are willing to go through the trouble for you. You can also make your own with the knowledge and appreciation of where it originally comes from.

If your intention is to support the African artisans and sellers of waist beads, we support you! No matter your size, race, background etc., if your intention is to use waist beads and appreciate them, we support you! Join our community of friends by subscribing to our email list and follow us on all social media platforms. Shop Accessories By JJ LLC Today by visiting www.accessoriesbyjj.com . Support a small business to grow by submitting your thoughts and sharing with others.


Jamela Idd 

Founder Of Accessories By JJ LLC.


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https://greenheart.org/blog/greenheart-international/cultural-appreciation-vs-cultural-appropriation-why-it-matters/?unapproved=19032&moderation-hash=b4836bd65888c3935698cd2f9098db2e#comment-19032 (K. Holmes)

https://www.healthline.com/health/cultural-appropriation (C. Raypole)

Merriam- Webster Dictionary

1 comment

Hello, I am fully supportive of waist beads and have read deeply on the culture and their origins. I found that waist jewelry dates back to 500 BC as well as other cultures adorn their bodies with jewelry, such as Egyptians, Indians, Arabized Europeans, various Western African Cultures. I respect Ghanaian culture and that they hold their traditions and values so close. I love the profound embodiment of femininity that this tradition holds.

I make my waist beads, and have had girls ask to buy mine to be custom made. I am white. I always link the history and education of various sources of waist beads and other body jewelry and even other black-owned shops. The girls (all races) want the designs that are my own. I make them with both the education and attitude that knows I am borrowing from other cultures, and I truly enjoy buying my materials, sitting and stringing my beads with hemp cord using various beads sources from Africa and Czech. I would absolutely not like them buying from mass manufactured distributors such as Temu or SHEIN. I kept asking this question on various platforms, but have not received a straight answer. I would like to share my creations, but only with complete understanding that what I wish to do is ethical, not only from my eyes, but the eyes of others.

WonderingWoman January 17, 2024

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