Publication Date

Fall 1995


The use of beads as body adornment has served as a strong non-verbal communicative device within Ghanaian culture. Decorating oneself with beads can depict a person's mood, project a period in life one is going through, and display the social status of the individual. This study focuses on the significance beads have in portraying the prestige, inheritance and duty of responsibility of traditional figures of authority. The research was concentrated on the chiefs and queen mothers of the Ewe cultural group and their particular usage of beads as an item of royal regalia. Behind the beautiful, aesthetic expression of bead adornment is an underlying principle of reason. This study investigates answers to why certain beads are only associated with royalty; how "pomp and circumstance" are ever present at formal ceremonies and the history that encompasses the reasons from where these practices and beliefs may be derived. Within this work is an outlying historical background of the Ewes of Ghana, including their most recent migration from Togo and the festivals that celebrate this occurrence. Present at the festivals are notable attire and adornment which reveal the important positions which royalty hold as both "symbolic figures" and present day "active figures" in Ewe society. This paper will discuss the special kinds of beads that tell a vital story of the prestige, inheritance, and social status of the chiefs and queen mothers.