CultureGhanaLifestyle

Beads: ancient accessory, new source of wealth

Many Ghanaians are turning to beadwork as a pastime. And some are discovering that there’s decent money to be made from beading

Beading has become a lucrative venture in Ghana today, helping to create employment for people young and old. Many Ghanaians are now using beads as material to decorate slippers and make bags.

This new trend is helping to check rampant unemployment among Ghana’s youth, who would otherwise have been idle while they pursue so-called white-collar jobs.

Speaking to Asaase Radio, Maureen Osei, who makes bead handbags and designs slippers decorated with beads at her workshop in Taifa, a suburb of Accra, said: “My daughter was seven months and she tore my mum’s beaded necklace.”

It was as she was gathering the torn beads and realised she could mend it, that she became inspired to set herself up in a beading venture.

Although she had completed tertiary education, Maureen did not wait to be employed by someone else. She saw beading as an opportunity to become self-employed, “a source of income” and, most importantly, to have time for her children.

Driving force of beading

Creativity is a necessary asset in beading; it is at the core of the work. A beadworker has to be creative, observant, innovative and a style- and trend-setter. He or she has to possess the quality of being able to create designs “out of nothing”.

Enthusiasts and buyers of beadwork at all times want to see different, bespoke designs. They want the designs of their bead bags to stand out on all occasions so that they can be the talk of the town.

Beads: clutch bag and purse, red and black

“I tap my designs and ideas from the environment,” Maureen said, “and creation of styles comes from different angles. The finishing and colour combination of your product also counts.

“At all times, you must produce what your customer wants to meet their demands and exceed their standards,” she said.

“Be your own boss”

“Beading as a full-time work allows you the flexibility of time,” Abena Asantewaa, another young lady who is also into beading full-time, said. “You are also your own boss. You can decide on what designs to make and what to do with your profits,” she said.

According to Maureen, who employs three people besides herself, the variety of beads, their prices on the market and the designs she employs in her work “determine the cost of the finished product”.

When the products are finished, however, one challenge that is common to both women is the “market for the products”. Although the bead handbags are unique and trendy, marketing them is not always “easy”.

But Auntie Ceci, a bead enthusiast, explained why she buys bead bags. “I love bead bags,” she said. ”They are handmade and made to suit my style and design.

”It is the only way I can have the luxury of selecting a choice of design I want, made just for me. When I buy them, I am also supporting a small Ghanaian business to grow.”

Beads: clutch bag, ivory

Many bead bag lovers share the same sentiments as Auntie Ceci. The challenge remains for the weavers to find more innovative ways of reaching their customers. With the aid of social media now, artisans and designers who “know what time it is” are capitalising on the benefits of beads and using them as a channel to show their work and reach more buyers.

Olden-day accessory

Beads are small, decorative objects that can be used to create bracelets, necklaces and an assortment of designs in clothing.

They come in various colours, shapes and sizes, and have been used by human beings as jewellery for thousands of years – some dating as far back as the Stone Age. In the past, societies around the world often used beads as a substitute for coin money in their transactions.

They can be sourced from stone, bone, coral, ivory, horn, seeds and wood. The aesthetic and artistic charm of beads have made them very sought after among many cultures and within the fashion industry.

Nana Abena Boakye-Boateng

* Follow Maureenbeads on social media for more information about Maureen Osei’s work.
* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.
Follow us on Twitter: @asaaseradio995
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