Jigida refers to waist beads.
I think the Yorubas call it bebedi or ileke idi. I got to know about waist beads from my paternal grandma. I remember my two grandmothers, both paternal and maternal with fond memories. They are both gone now but I will never forget those sweet women and the roles they played in my life. I never met the grandpas but I bet they would have been sweet old men whose fierceness would have dimmed over the years leaving them putty in my hands.
I see the same thing in my father when he handles my kids; they remove his cap and place it on their heads and tell him outright what they won’t do for him. I never had such guts growing up. I never even dared look my father in the eye…when I no dey craze?
Anyway, back to my paternal grandmother. Her name was Segilola, an exotic name, the type playwrights like to use in their dramas to depict a village beauty. And so was my grandma; petite, curvy and highly fashionable.
The woman had tattoos all over her arms and legs and because she was light skinned, the dark green ink was quite visible and according to her, won her many admirers.
I lived with her briefly when I was just 16 going on 17years. I was studying at the Ogun state polytechnic for my A’ levels, and so I got to know more about my grandma. What fascinated me most was that my grandma wore waist beads. At the boarding house, I’d seen a few students who wore waist beads, particularly friends from the north. It wasn’t so common with my southern friends but I didn’t give much thought to the reasons behind wearing waist beads until I discovered my grandma was a waist-beader. So I asked why.
“It’s to keep your husband to yourself,” she told me.
Huh? How could she think so, particularly as she had been married to a man who later married several other wives, being a Muslim. Had grandpa passed on more than 20 years before?
“…and it calms you down; it helps with certain pains…” She told me and it added to my confusion.
Banza! It keeps a straying husband and relieves pains? After he strays?
Anyway, I was interested in the beads. I loved the feel of coral, the colours and different sizes of clusters around grandma’s waist. I thought they had a certain sensual-ness; perhaps she might be partly right. I could hear them jingle softly when she undressed to hit the bed at night; so I asked her if I could get some, just two rings of beads, nothing fancy; she had a ring of four or five on her, I wanted just two, so they could shing-shing when I moved.
I was almost 17 like I said with good O’level grades and studying for my A’ levels, so I wasn’t thinking to entice any man or boy for that matter at that time because my father would have killed me and buried me on that very spot! I just wanted to feel all grown up sexy, just like when you wear new lingerie, only you know how great you feel on the inside. (Well, your man too.)
However, at the back of my mind, I knew my mother would never let me wear the beads; she had an aversion to anything sexual for her girls at that age, still, I figured, that since it was coming from my grandma, my mother would have no choice.
Anyway, grandma was happy to oblige and got them for me. Two very beautiful strings of coloured beads. She helped me tie them around my waist and taught me to walk without being self-conscious.
I learned to but began to form sexy when I got to school.
In time, I was due home for a short holiday at my parents’ in Lagos and had so completely gotten used to my waist beads that I didn’t remember to hide it from my mum when I got home.
“What is this!” I heard her thunder.
I was partially naked when my mother walked into the room.
“Mama gave me,” I defended quickly. You see, I knew mama being mum’s mother- in- law kind of gave her rights over me. I thank God for education and modernity, o. I can’t imagine a mother-in-law having the final say in the life of my child while I’m still alive.
Anyway, my mum didn’t want to fight against my grandma; she needed to be in grandma’s good books, I knew it and I used it. Shame on me.
So mother paused, reflected a bit and said to remove it until I had to go back to school to stay at grandma’s. I knew it was a temporary relief. She was looking for a way to stop the beads-wearing permanently.
As things turned out, I had my beads on and was back to studying for my A levels the following week.
Now, my A’ Level class at the polytechnic was a market, a rowdy class of more than 100 students who often had to jostle for seats in the lecture halls assigned to us. So there we were, one day; all struggling to get a seat in the crowded lecture room when the jigida broke.
I didn’t feel anything but I watched, mortified as the beads bounced and scattered in several places while students stopped to watch.
The boys were gleeful in their mockery while the girls snickered at the unlucky girl who no one had been able to identify in the melee.
I hurried off to the bathroom, fearing more beads would fall behind me. They didn’t.
I got to the bathroom and felt for the rest. My beads were intact! Amazing!
But amazing or not; that was the last day I wore beads.
Read more from Peju