Beads such as the famous "Samburu" communicate social status for both men and women. A beautiful girl has many admirers who make gifts of beads. A girl will often have a substantial collection of necklaces, indicating her great desirability and thereby helping to secure a proposal of marriage. Samburu beads are believed to enhance the wearer's fertility and are coveted for their ochre color.
Trade Beads are the most ornate type of beads. Also known as "Venetian Millefiori" meaning "thousand flowers," these mosaic beads originate from ancient Roman and Egyptian times. They were brought to West Africa by traders and were used as currency. A single bead could even buy a slave.
Since Palaeolithic times, fear has been linked with eyes and "good" eyes were created to deflect evil. As soon as glass was invented, eye beads were made. Face beads are considered more powerful than eye beads in warding off evil.
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Photographs copyright © Shari Meyr, Primate Projections - 1998. All rights reserved.