Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A few Saturdays ago, Charles, Imms and I spent some hours perusing the open market in Oshakati. It took me quite a while to find the true gems within this market. From one side of the street, a passerby would see a cultural array of baskets filled with traditional grains, spices, and nuts with the occasional stand selling fresh vegetables. From the other side, all that can be seen is a line of venders selling imported trinkets – rasta necklaces, bootlegged cds, socks, soccer paraphernalia, acrylic lingerie, lip gloss in every color and god knows what else. It takes some expert navigating and forceful refusals to marriage proposals to get into the heart of the market. Once there, one can find anything from vibrant traditional dresses to dried caterpillars, which I tasted for the first time last week and found them surprisingly bearable. I have sat and watched memes sewing on old school crank machines and old men slaughtering and hanging slabs of meat twice my size. Charles was on a mission to find the perfect gift for Jen. We were on our way to Okahao to celebrate her birthday. Imms ran into a ‘sister’ of his (aka a women somehow related to him by at least 5 degrees of separation) who was selling beads and necklaces. I encouraged Charles to buy Omagwe, the traditional belly beads, for Jen. I bought some as well. We spent a good hour at Jen’s attempting to secure them above our large hips and debating the significance of the beads. Here is what I learned……
All women wear the Omagwe beads from when they are a small girl, even infants. They are worn right below the waistline, hidden from view and only removed for adjustment as the girl/women grows. I have heard numerous explanations for why these beads are worn.
1. They are fertility beads and are worn until a woman gives birth.
2. They are worn to keep away the witches.
3. They represent purity and virginity and are taken off after marriage.
4. Their only purpose is to keep women thin, with feminine curves.
5. You where them to show that you are a girl. White beads are worn until you have a child and any color thereafter.

All of these have been proven wrong in some context or another, so I am not sure what to believe. I think I will go with the fourth explanation until I get further proof. Not sure it is a good alternative to Weight Watchers, but the beads do make me feel pretty!

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