Late last year, just before ugly Covid-19 dug its stinking teeth in the beautiful Parisian art scene, my friends and I stopped by CSAO* (in the 3rd Arrondissement) to buy a few African souvenirs. Christmas was coming up and the Pan African me always gives out African or Africa-themed gifts. Even though I had been to CSAO a number of times, I had never noticed the multicolored bead strings that hung from different hooks in the corner.
The attendant, a sweet girl of Senegalese origin, was very quick to suggest them to us. We bought a couple and went back to show them off to our other friends who all found them "exotic". A couple of times I visited male friends with these beads very visible, and they always commented on their exquisiteness. They never seemed disturbed or affected by these jewels in my waist.
First forward to The Pearl. After quarantine. I had lunch with some friends in Wandegeya where I left my car, then I walked to Mutaasa Kafeero to buy some phone accessories. When you've been in Europe you get so used to walking that this distance seems like a mere meter. Anyway at first I didn't understand why I was attracting so many stares.
When I reached the building, most of the shops were closed but the few which were open had mostly men. They stared at my waist endlessly as they kept tugging at my arm saying things like "baby", "size yange" etc. For a girl who grew up in Kampala I'm not normally shocked by this nonsense. But this time it was more insistent.
People were making very disrespectful comments and throwing insults my way. Others were jeering and uttering all manner of obscenities and vulgarities. Yes I know it's a bad idea to wear a crop top in downtown Kampala, but this wasn't my first time to do it and I always got away with it. Finally, after a long battle with idle perverts who wouldn't leave me in peace, I got out of the building and walked to Cargen House where I was meeting another group of friends whom I hadn’t seen in ages.
My friends were very excited about my waist beads and asked if I didn't find a hard time walking around with them. I narrated my ordeal and they burst out laughing, saying waist beads have a very strong sexual connotation in Ugandan culture. For a girl who spent a big part of her childhood in Kampala and who considers herself rather sexually informed, I was very shocked at these (almost glad) tidings.
They also mentioned that it was a terrible idea to walk around downtown in such revealing clothes. The consequence of being multicultural is that you have to always remember which culture matches where you are so as to know which part of you to bring out. If it’s Uganda, you remember to not reveal too much flesh, not to kiss in public, not to take it personal when people come late. You also remember to not cross your legs when talking to important people.
In France, you remember to not ask details about people, to smile even when you don’t mean it, to freely talk about sexual topics and throw compliments here and there. Anyway. Later when I asked my housemaid she told me that indeed it was true. Waist beads are for sexual stimulation and are not supposed to leave the bedroom.
At further consultation with Mama Nankya, the lady who delivers my groceries, I was amused to learn that what I had done, walking around in a crop top with visible waist beads was terribly "obscene" and should never be repeated. She narrated to me the usage of these beads, how the man touches them to turn the woman on and get her juices flowing, how their sound triggers erection, and how their sacredness can preserve a relationship. She glanced at the beads still around my waist and shook her head in disapproval.
The rest of the evening was spent on the internet reading about African waist beads. Apparently they are worn throughout Africa as a symbol of femininity, fertility, sensuality, and spiritual well-being, although many girls wear them for purely esthetic purposes. In certain parts of West Africa these beads are used to mark maturity, to bring good luck, to represent royalty, and all the possible imaginable illusions of African mythology.
The four Ssengas I consulted on the phone all emphasized the use of waist beads in enhancing a woman's sexiness. And the millennials? Did they also see things like that? A poll I ran on selected social media platforms showed that only about 61% of the Ugandan millennials knew about this phenomenon. The other 39%, just like me, were totally oblivious of the connection between waist beads and sexuality from a cultural point of view.
Most men admitted to never have slept with a beaded woman, but confirmed that they would gladly welcome some jewels in their piercing adventures. To quote one precisely, he said "I would love it if I bend her over and hold her by the beads as I ram into her". Another one, 31 years old, said the combination of a lace thong and a string of glossy multi-colored beads would make him go crazy. And yeah, one guy, 28 years old, actually said he would love to eat pussy covered in beads.
When I expressed my surprise he said the sensation of hard and soft in one place, the feeling of little round particles soaked in warm liquid and competing with a clitoris for his attention was something he was going to experience by all means. It would be better if the girl pulled a bit, he added on. I told him to ensure that the string holding the beads is firm enough or else he would end up with a bead down his throat!
Another one, a 36 year old Ugandan-German man said he would love to get dominated by a beaded girl and get tied up with her beads. So enthralling and mind-boggling were the countless responses I received from the guys that I had to stop imagining everything they were saying or else strong clitoral throbs were awaiting me. Even in their racial and ethnic differences one factor was a denominator: Almost all men who participated in the poll were more than willing to play a beaded game. Just 3% were indifferent, only grateful to get laid.
And the ladies? 92% of the female respondents said they had never worn waist beads. 8% said they wore them in childhood. Of the 92% more than half is of African origin/lives in Africa. On whether they would try the beads to enhance their sexual experience or that of their partner, the response was largely positive, though not as graphic as their male counterparts.
As I went on to discover, these blessed beads seem to be on sale in almost every craft and jewelry shop in Kampala, ranging from UGX 15,000 to UGX 100,000 depending on the quality of the bead and the address you buy it from. On Amazon and Etsy they range from $10 to $20. They come in different colors, sizes and patterns, though most are multicolored and multi-patterned. Modern ones in forms of chains are also quite many on Amazon.
So, armed with this new revelation, I waited for my Mr. to come back. I planted scented candles in the different parts of the house and opened the door when he knocked, wearing nothing but seven layers of multicolored tiny beads around my waist. Carla Bruni’s L’excessive was playing softly in the background. I got him settled down, put a drink in his hand and performed a belly dance for him. The beads were knocking against each other and making a soft rustling sound as I rolled and rotated my waist to Carla’s husky voice and that aphrodisiac acoustic. As she was saying in the song that she’s excessive, I also felt excessive, yet I wasn’t about to stop.
Mr. greatly loved the bead mix. Day in day out it was on, different colors, different dance, different discovery. Different Music. Benjamin Biolay’s Tu Es Mon Amour, Folle de Toi, Frero de la Vega’s Mon Petit Pays, Slimane’s Avant toi, Samba de mon cœur qui bat and my other beautiful French songs that you might not know.
In those weeks we blasted like teenagers on some drug with an unprecedented height, not caring whether the neighbors were bothered or inconvenienced. And just like that, Mr. decided that we needed a get-away. I could choose between Elephant plains or Kyaninga Lodge or wherever I wanted inside The Pearl. The same Mr. had earlier said that he wasn’t about to waste any money on some lodge.
Thanks, CSAO, and whoever invented the beads: I sure am benefiting greatly from your wisdom. You too will, when you try these African beauties. Your sexual life will be opened up to a totally new dimension. Thank me later!