Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sophisticated Lady Swag: Conjure Woman

So, Zenzile has given you an overview on waistbeads & their purpose.  Now, it's my turn to fill you in on my jigeda. I have three sets of waistbeads so far, with the goal of owning seven sets to fully establish my brand of divine femininity.  As you can see from the photo, I have one set that's red/black with stones & a solid red set.  The red beads from those two sets signify passion, sensuality, and love, while the black in one of the sets represents power.  The solid white set emphasizes purity in intentions or sincerity & symbolizes the light of the moon, a celestial body that fascinates me to no end. The remaining four sets will vary in design depending on my moods & their specific uses, however, I do know that some of the colors in those sets will include, but are not limited to, purple, turquoise, orange, yellow, solid black, & green. 

A woman can choose to adorn one set of waistbeads or several at a time, depending on her preference. Whatever her choice, she's dispensing feminine power, something that I'll loosely call magic-- and that is why she should be careful when wearing them.  As for me, whenever I wear my beads, I'm usually rocking all three sets, but I'm also highly selective about when they are worn.  For example, I do not wear my beads to the corporate slum (my job). It is not my intention to give off sensual energy in so sterile of an environment among menfolk who I have no desire to entice. It's not a good idea to wear waistbeads in other formal environments, such as church. I mean, really, praising the Lord has nothing to do with your sex appeal.    

So, are waistbeads just that serious?  The answer is yes. Given the current trends of sistas rocking stilettos before 9pm and the normality of skin-tight clothing and flesh displays, it's critical to stress, to women, that men actually like a bit of mystery in a woman. Waistbeads, when worn under clothing, can offer that mysterious effect as a woman uses her eyes & body language to suggest to her lover that she's got a sexy little secret waiting just for him.

For the most part, it's not much for a woman to step out in skimpy clothing, advertising the money parts (tits & ass) of her body, while men gawk unintentionally because they are biologically wired as visual creatures. But, once she's snagged the man of her liking, will she be able to keep his attention beyond the peep show?  It was said that Cleopatra (who was a Black woman, by the way) had the ability to seduce a man from twenty paces without revealing a hint of flesh. She was able to do this because she understood the allure of a sensual & confident woman. These two qualities are not dependent on men's validation, but rather, from a woman tapping into those aspects for herself.

Waistbeads can help because, when wearing them, she will become more comfortable with herself.  This can trigger emotional healing for all women, but especially sistas, since we are bombarded at every turn by media-induced images of beauty that starkly contrasts with what most of us see in the mirror. Activities such as adoring yourself in waistbeads and taking the time to engage in your own set of sacred pampering principles will bless you with one of the greatest gifts of all: self-acceptance.  At the same time, waistbeads can charge a woman's sexuality. If she has tapped into her feminine essence & exudes confidence, she is able to present a level of intimacy and love that will secure a man's heart as well as have a seductive effect on him that's better than Viagara. It's a lot like casting a spell, a love spell, if you will & that's what being a Conjure Woman is all about. 

Zenzile and I are making a special effort to add to the growing number of sistas out here who are reconnecting with our cultural roots. We're focused on presenting another version of Black womanhood that's not wrapped in layers of white supremacy, conservatism/traditionalism, or outright rebellion and lasciviousness.  At the same time, we want to reaffirm the spiritual components of Black womanhood & reconstruct our community without the overt influence of Westernized societal models because they don't work for  'Us'.

Waistbeads may not seem as though they can make such a statement, but on the contrary.  During our research for these posts, we have found several articles online, mostly from African websites, that are hashing it out about the traditional uses of waistbeads as well as their place in modern African societies.  Bead work & bead wear has been in existence in Africa for thousands of years so it should be quite obvious how waistbeads are a highly politicized issue.  In the U.S., there's an enclave of sistas who have taken up the craft of making & selling waistbeads (we will provide links in another post). Most of us are well aware of their allure & use them as a tool to celebrate our unique womanness.   As we continue to observe, we are noticing that many sistas are straying away from our distinctiveness (perhaps because many of them are unaware), which is why we're here revealing this -- the LoveJonesLifestyle.   

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sophisticated Lady Swag...

Continuing our Sophisticated Ladies series, we bring you post number 4, Sophisticated Lady Swag. Just a play on words, as sophisticated ladies are obviously not into what is currently known as "swag" in the colloquial sense, but we do want to discuss what swag means for the sophisticated lady. After all our definition of a sophisticated lady is a woman who is originally created, authentically developed, and all about being organic. And swag, well, that's a woman's own essence, her self defined representation and presentation.

The sophisticated lady, in the world of the LoveJonesLifestyle, is one who finds her own sense of appropriateness...from behavior, to dress, to vocation and representation, she is organically formed. She studies design to see what fits her body best, instead of fashion to maintain a trend. She develops her own code of ethics based on her own understanding, reasoning, argument and experience, as opposed to seeking acceptance and behaving like the status quo. She draws on the divine feminine to organically create an identity that suits her gifts, talents and lifestyle. She draws on her culture and ancestral history to ground her own identity which serves to protect her from the distractions, confusion and mixed messages of the outside world.

Following the vein of the divine feminine, Chandra Kamaria and I would like to share some of our #TeamOrganic swag, if you will.

One of my favorite pastimes is adornment. It helps me to relax and feel my best. Spending Saturdays washing and conditioning my locs, exfoliating, deep cleaning and decorating my face with makeup, indulging my skin in oil based salt and sugar scrubs, and slathering on scented oils and body creams have always been a few of my favorite rituals to prepare me for the stressful week ahead as a parent, student, employee, creative person, partner, community member and human being. Last week as we painted our nails, Chandra and I  laughed as we simultaneously shared that we had recently pulled one of our favorite guiding texts, Debrena Jackson Gandy's Sacred Pampering Principles, out for a refresher read.

Once all the physical care is done, we get to our favorite part, the adornment. While most look at summer adornment as all about "summer hair" swimsuits and sundresses, we go a bit deeper. For me especially, summer is all about three of my favorite pieces. The toe ring, anklet, and waist beads. I loved toe rings as soon as I got old enough to learn how to complete my own pedicures, and anklets were always mixed with seduction and repression for me.  I would see the thin gold bands under the stockinged legs of ladies in church, and wonder infinitely about this hidden/visible piece of "grown up" jewelry. As soon as I had my own money, I hurried to Claire's Boutique at the mall to buy my own. (Talk about being 'grown'!!) Now I wear a chain of bells around my ankle, taking what my dear sister-friend Reanae calls "the rhythm of life" with me everywhere I go.

I first became interested in waist bead years ago but my own insecurities prevented me from ever taking my interest any further. I learned, much to my pleasure, that waist beads were a significant part of  feminine power in West African (the area from which most African American's descent groups originate) culture. But I also thought, like many women do, that waist beads were for women with perfect waists...which I didn't have as a young woman, and certainly didn't have after giving birth to two nine pound baby boys! It was only when I decided to embrace what I DID have, that I was able to consider bringing the beads into my regular adornment style.

Sewra sums up the history and purpose of waist beads as I learned it from beaders, jewelry-makers and  other students of the divine feminine:
Traditionally worn under clothes by African women, waist beads have several different meanings. Ranging from rites of passage, to enticing your husband to healing and rejuvenation. The art of adorning ones self has been practiced since the beginning of time. In Egypt, waist beads were called “girdles”. All the women wore them and it was a uniform for pre-pubescent girls with out any sexual connotation. But usually servants or dancers wore them and are shown in wall relief’s wearing them and nothing else!
In West Africa, waist beads have several names.; Jel-Jelli, Jigeda, Giri-Giri, Djalay Djalay or Yomba. They’re always worn under clothes. In Ghana women knew that waist beads helped form their body into a particular shape and adult women wear beads to sexually stimulate the male. In other parts of West Africa, women would wear waist beads with bells on them, and when they walked it would make a jingling noise. Dipping them in oil scented the beads.
When you add stones, waist beads take on healing qualities. Depending on ailment or what needs to be enhanced (i.e. love, physic powers, balancing), various semi-precious stones can be included in the design of your waist beads. (Sewra of waistbeads.com)
 My first set of waist-beads (shown below) were hand made, originally scheduled to be a bridal project and bonding activity for me and my friends while we were all still single. I ended up being gifted with them by a sister-friend and was overwhelmed with joy as I knew they were a  labor of love.

They consist of cotton thread and yellow silk ribbons, fire agate for confidence, jade for wisdom/balance and peace, and copper (increase/magnification of other stones) tie tips. Of course, waist beads are as diverse as the women who wear them. Some women wear several strands of tiny beads, others mix beads and healing stones, still others may wear a single strand of larger beads or a single strand of small beads.

My beads have become, above all other adornment, the ultimate in femininity. I love to wear them, to know that my most beautiful jewels are actually hidden, much like the true beauty of a woman. I love knowing that they lie in wait for discovery by my lover...and I love the effect they have when I am grabbed at the waist. The look that says "whats that?" followed by a passionate need to have the secret revealed.

The beads are powerful. Because of their ancient nature, the have brought memories and myths to my sacred intimate space. They bring all of the energies of their physical property while magnifying the most natural human desire and drive for sexual healing.

 I'm already planning on making a second set, this time a casual, truly Southern set I call Pure Leather and Wood, which will consist of a tan leather band, round white (moon energy, purity, spiritual clarity ) wood beads, ebony (protection) square wood beads as accents and cream glass bead tie tips.

For me, being able to create my own expression of beauty, that has a function and is extremely expressive of self love, my personal history and the divine feminine is the ULTIMATE Sophisticated Lady swag!!