Two weeks ago, I shared my concerns about the fate of Ghana’s fabric industry in “Dear Afrocentrists, ‘African Prints’ Are Not From Africa.” This week, I visited one of the most impressive bead-makers in Ghana, Mr. Cedi, to discuss the impact counterfeit beads has had on Ghana’s bead industry. Contrary to my original argument, though, his business has not been affected by imitations.
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“People who value authentic beads still find their way to us. You came all the way from Accra to visit us because of the worth of our beads,” Mr. Cedi said. “The person I just got off the phone with is coming all the way from Brazil to see our work. Bead making has taken us to all corners of the world, because we maintain our authenticity and continue to innovate our beads.”
Indeed, Cedi Beads Industry is consistently innovating their products; almost all the bracelets I saw two weeks ago were gone and replaced with a new set of unique beads.
Bead making beautifully illustrates Africans’ ability to create valuable ornaments out of waste — in this case, empty bottles. The process starts with a collection of empty bottles that are pounded to powder. The powder is then poured into molds with a small stick in the middle to form a round hole (a passageway for the thread used to turn the beads into necklaces and bracelets). The mold is then placed in a termite soil oven and the powder is melted and molded into beautiful circular beads. A single bracelet takes about 3 to 5 hours to complete.
Watch the beadmaking process here:
Beads play a major role in African culture and fashion.
The people of Krobo use them for cultural puberty rites, Queens and Kings wear them to showcase their royal hierarchy, and recently, the new generation of Africans wear them as necessary accessories to complete their fashion statement.
Being a bead lover myself, I was relieved to learn that in the end, authenticity prevails. You can view our latest collection of beads here.