There is something deeply personally about beaded jewelry in Nigeria. Whether it the type with 20 lines or the elaborate designs used, every piece worn by every woman you see in Nigeria is handmade by a local artisan trying to or working successfully to make a living out of making custom beaded jewelry for a client. Today’s post is focused on why we desperately need to teach more people, particularly young people how to make beaded jewelry in Nigeria. This is because women in Nigeria have taken the concept of beaded jewelry to another level. I am not sure exactly when the beaded jewelry became so mainstream or a popular fixture in Nigeria, but as for beads itself, they have always been a part of our culture, especially as part of the traditional marriage ceremonies in our country. The sight of an Edo bride or a Delta bride with all her red or white coral beads is a mainstay in Nigeria that dates back to the 1800s.
But the idea of people specializing in custom beaded jewelry, moving beyond coral beads to other gemstomes or crystals in my opinion is much more recent. These local beaded jewelry artisans can make almost anything imaginable. Delicate, yet eye-catching, their designs are so beautiful and you can look at pictures of women wearing these jewelry all day. So when it comes to making beaded jewelry, these local artisans are fearless and making their work very popular in the country.
The moment of truth though, would be to capitalize on the popularity of beaded jewelry and create a viable space for others to learn how to turn it into a business opportunity. The journey to making beaded jewelry a lucrative endeavor for people in Nigeria won’t be an easy one honestly speaking. However in a situation where thousands of Nigerian youth for example do not go to college, where nearly half of those who do go fail to graduate, and more than half of the graduates are unemployed or underemployed, gaining skills like making beaded jewelry is essential. It could be the smartest investment Nigeria could make in it’s youth, for it’s business sector, and the country’s economic future.
The art of being successful though with teaching people in Nigeria how to make beaded jewelry would be to keep it simple. Given them the basics and let them go from there. It is also not enough to teach skills, without teaching how to market or advertise the beaded jewelry made, and so market literacy is essential. The industry would also have to have efficiency, transparency, and product quality at the core of it’s training, something already lacking in a host of products made in Nigeria.
The next big thing for anyone who learns how to make these beaded jewelry would be sustainability. I especially love this quote by Alibaba founder which makes sense for beaded jewelry making industry in Nigeria: ” [In] the last century [the thinking was], if you wanna grow, you should find a good opportunity. But today, if you want to be a great company, think about what social problem you could solve.” – Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba. The social problem that a beaded jewelry industry in Nigeria would solve is unemployment and also HIV too.
Think about it for a moment, many of our youth are unemployed and many, especially our young women engage in sexual acts with sugar daddies to make ends meet. Nigerian consumers have already started patronizing these beaded jewelry, so why not be reliable in terms of how it is made and market high-value products that people would willingly purchase.
This is an endeavor that I hope to do something about in the near future. I used to make beaded jewelry. I am a certified beaded jewelry expert and my skills were honed by one of the greatest woman in the industry who has dedicated her life to empowering people to gain the skill of jewelry making. In the summer of 2007, I spent one month gaining these skills in Festac Town Lagos. I went on to form a business with my best friend which we call BLB Jewelry or Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed Jewelry. I did some sales in the Fall of 2007, plus an exhibit that generated tons of support and money in the US. But then school got in the way and the bead-making endeavor was put to the side while I focused on my PhD. In the summer of 2010, I revisited bead-making and was one of the first students of Morning Star Humanitarian Services (MSHS) in Lagos Nigeria. I gained skills in beading making as part of MSHS youth empowerment program. Where am I going with this. Well, I have seen first hand how lucrative bead-making can be and I have made money from it. I would like to take beaded-jewelry to another level in Nigeria, and help many young people gain the skills that I gained so that they too can earn a living out of making custom-beaded jewelry that are of high quality. Here are pictures from this weekend showcasing my talent. This is a Nefertti piece that I learned how to make back in 2007.