The use of beads has long been a part of African culture and industry. In Africa, beads served various purposes over the years from a medium of exchange to identifying or differentiating a royalty from a commoner. Today, the bead making industry remains etched in African culture and industry. In some tribes, beads serve as a means of artistic expression and a representation for life events like birth, marriage, and death.
The beauty of beads is undisputable. With their variety of shapes, colours and sizes, you are sure to make a fashion statement if you incorporate it in your looks. The versatility of beads as a fashion piece is unmatched. From necklaces, head pieces, waist beads to body chains, it’s so fascinating to see how these pieces can elevate any style. In this week’s Entrepreneur Weekly, we will delve into the fashion of beads in Jamaica.
As Jamaicans, we are big on “Fashion ovah (over) style”. With a huge portion of our culture being influenced by Africa, it is no surprise that beads have found their way into the Jamaican fashion industry. “If you look on our African connection, the beads as an element of jewellery, decorative thing, has been present in Jamaica,” says Robert Hall, Fashion Expert at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) Incubator & Resource Centre (IRC).
The use of beads in the Jamaican fashion space serves as a medium of expression for some and a connection with Africa to many. Hall alludes to the Rastafari religion and the use of red, green and yellow beads to represent the mantras and ‘livity’ in the religion, “It is common in Jamaica to see persons wearing the Rastafarian coloured trinkets to actually express that connection to Rastafari and by extension African roots”. Waist beads have also been present in the fashion space recently, with females using the jewellery to accentuate their waistline in form-fitting clothing.
The Nigerian Technical Assistance Programme
Robert points out that beads remain an easy entry point into the craft industry for aspiring artisans. The Nigerian Technical Assistance Programme, born out of a partnership with the Government of Jamaica and the Nigerian Commission is aimed at improving the existing African derived skills in the Jamaican space to generate opportunities for social and economic development especially for entrepreneurs. Through this Programme, the JBDC’s Incubator & Resource Centre (IRC) has trained several artisans in bead work with the help of Alao Luqman Omotayo, a Nigerian artist and Volunteer & Cultural Diplomat to Jamaica.
Colin Porter, JBDC’s Technical Services Manager at the IRC says that the JBDC through the African-Jamaica partnership has been able to train several producers in the art of bead-making, “As it relates to craft and bead-making, we have organised workshops and technical assistance for producers under The Nigerian Technical Assistance Programme. The most recent initiative saw Alao sharing his knowledge about beading to make intricate designs.”
The IRC Craft Incubator
Producers and clients who have benefitted from The Nigerian Technical Assistance Programme have been able to use the skill to enter the craft industry in Jamaica. The IRC facilitates the growth of this industry not only through workshops and technical assistance, but also by providing a space for entrepreneurs to manufacture these craft items. The Craft incubator is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to refine the production process. The space is able to accommodate multiple users at a time and is equipped with tools such as tumblers, drills, polishing wheel, rolling mill, laser etching machine, and a variety of hand tools.
The incubator is also ideal for clients who want to experiment and develop new product concepts and prototypes. Visit www.jbdc/technicalassistance.com to get started!
JBDC Virtual Biz Zone – The Business of Beads
The JBDC will be focusing on The Business of Beads in the upcoming Virtual Biz Zone session on Tuesday August 15, 2023 at 10:00am on the Zoom platform. Alao Luqman Omotayo, who holds a Master’s of Fine Art (MFA) in Printmaking from University of Benin, and is pursuing his PhD from the same university, will present on the versatility and value of beads as a cultural product in Jamaica. He will also explore areas such as the use of beads in jewellery and fashion; the use of beads as enhancements in consumer products; and sourcing of beads. Register now at https://www.jbdc.net/events/.