Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ileke Idi (Waist Beads)

So I recently thought about Ileke Idi... When I was younger, I noticed a number of young ladies in Lagos would wear many beads around their waists and those beads would move up and down as they walk.  They are called Ileke Idi or waist beads.

I asked my mom about Ileke Idi* or waist beads the other day, and she claims that they are an Igbo tradition that have nothing to do with Yoruba culture.  In her words "Bi won she ma lo okurin na ma wa!" Basically she thinks that the only purpose of wearing a waist bead is to attract a mate.

*Literally translated, Ileke Idi means butt beads (lol).

I don't think my mom is right though on her claim that waist beads are an Igbo tradition or that the purpose of wearing waist beads is to attract a mate...When I was a kid, I remember hearing people talk about Ileke Idi and I always understood it to be a Yoruba accessory.

Divine Moon on tumblr writes the following about Ileke Idi:
Ileke Idi/waist bead is an ornament that comprises some small round sometimes spherical or flat shaped piece of glass, rubber, metal, nut or wood, pierced in the middle for stringing and aligned on a thin rope or thread to make a beautiful long piece of ornament which can be connected at both ends to form a circular Ileke hanging around the waist and hips. It comes in varying designs and radiant colours. It is normally worn around the waist beneath clothes mostly by Yoruba women. It is worn across West African countries too.

It is worn often for adornment but there are however other reasons Yoruba women wear it, sometimes for religious rites, to increase dancing prowess, spiritual healing, status or more commonly, for erotic appeal to their husbands or to attract new suitors and in this case, the Ileke Idi would be made visible to the targeted persons. During the past generations, Ileke Idi was the vogue and one of the most cherished gifts a woman could receive, parents were known to adorn their daughters with colourful and expensive ones.
The Misconception
Ileke Idi now slowly becoming obsolete as contemporary Yoruba women, supposedly the educated ones consider it as uncivilized, uneducated and uncouth. Some Yoruba men have insisted they cannot be with a woman that wears Ileke Idi as they purport it reveals spirituality that does not tally with theirs.
I recently purchased coral and gold waist beads from Waist Beads by Sewra.  I bought them because I've been going through this kinky chic transition, and I wanted something that would be a private symbol of my connection to the sensual traditions of the Yoruba. I've been wearing them under my clothes, and they are such a good fit for my purpose.  The waist beads sit very low on my waist and are very comfortable.  I ordered a size that was about 4-5 inches wider than my waist so it would sit right above my hip bone, and I love the way it fits and sits.  It's a private symbol of femininity.

No filter. The sun was just rising when I took this picture.
I also understand that they are a good way to monitor weight gain around the belly, but I didn't buy them for this purpose!  With joy I heed the words of my sister during a recent conversation, "Make peace with your curves and lumps."  I'm no longer concerned with being physically perfect.  Rather, my emotional cleanse will manifest itself in the most beautiful way.

Do you have anything that you wear that reminds you of your traditions or culture?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kinky Chic Skin: Shea Butter Soap

For the most part, I have good skin.  Even color, small pores and a natural glow, but I find that my skin reacts badly to any new product that I try and tends to be a bit dry.  I've tried so many different brands of soap and moisturizer for my face and body, but I usually get breakouts or my skin feels so dry.  As a result, my dermatologist suggested that I stick with Cetaphil.  But since I've decided to live a kinky chic lifestyle, I want to find an organic, possibly vegan, (yes--I'm a hippie) moisturizer for my skin. 

One of my brothers-in-law is from Ghana and he introduced my sister to raw shea butter.  They use it on their children, and their children have flawless skin.  Truth be told, children always have flawless skin, but seeing them use raw shea butter put the idea in my head that I needed to add more shea butter to my routine.  I still couldn't get myself to tolerate, much less like, the smell of raw shea butter!

Here's what shea butter is:

And here are its various natural forms:

And raw shea butter looks like this when extracted from the shea nut and consolidated:

It's as close to the earth as possible, so I had to try to get over the smell.  I figured I could start with using shea butter in my hair.  For the past two months, I've had great success with using whipped shea butter on my hair, and since I was running out of it, I went online to see if I could find some more.

A random Google search took me to Etsy, and I found a number of shops that carry whipped shea butter as a moisturizer!  After the positive experience with my hair, I just had to try it on my skin.  

I settled on a few merchants based on price, shipping speed and selection.  The first package arrived from Dian Jane, and in the package, she included a sample of her shea butter soap.  I had never even considered shea butter soap! I used it the next day and I was hooked.

Here's some information about Dian Jane from Etsy:
Semi-retired Graphic Designer... sharing the healthy goodness of organic, natural and handmade bath and beauty products with others.
Over the last several years, I have developed and perfected my soap recipes, which are all mixed, cut and hand made by me. I don't use harsh chemicals and only vegetable oils in my soaps. The whipped body butters are organic a vegan with no animal products....not even beeswax.
My products are made from high quality, food grade oils and butters. Essential oils are added for their aromatherapy and healing benefits to the skin. When you use these products over time, moisture and elasticity of the skin will improve. So be thoughtful of your skin as a means to health.
My favorite so far is the Citrus Silk Herbal Infused Natural Soap.  It has a gritty feel to it, and my skin feels like butter after my shower. The ingredients are: olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, soybean oil, palm oil, palm kernal oil, calendula, lemongrass, sweet orange, essential oils, herbs, chamomile. I love that I can pronounce every single ingredient!  She's also having a sale, and all her organic items are 20% off with the coupon: PAMPER20.

I can't wait to try all her soaps, and I've already purchased 7 to start! (What can I say? I'm a pig--Chinese zodiac--and I love excess.)

Dian also mentioned that she's been using her soaps to shampoo her dreads for 10 years! I'm sold. Have you ever tried shea butter soap?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I've been secretly admiring dreadlocs for years now, and it finally hit me last year, when I returned to wearing my hair in its natural state, that I want to loc my hair.

A few years ago, I spoke with a few locticians in the area, but I was just toying with the idea of locs.  I still felt locs would be limiting in some way, so I was not ready. 

Now I see locs can actually provide a lot of freedom and flexibility.  Locs can be styled, colored, and even combed out (patiently) if at any point I decide that I'm done.

I decided my locs will be this size: 

(But my loctician, Kim says that this is more like Sisterlocs, and I'd rather not get into it in this post, but let's just say I don't think I'd fit in to the Sisterloc community.  We decided then to go with small dreads, like this:)

this color:

and this length:

This loc experience is my journey, and I'm choosing to start with loc extensions (and potentially skip the awkward baby loc stage).

I've made an early February appointment for loc extensions with Kim at Nubian Kinks in Brooklyn.  Yes, I will go to BK for my hair.... I'll also go to BK for:
  1. Nigerian food at Buka
  2. Volunteer dog walking at BARC Shelter
  3. Close friends who are crazy enough to live in BK...
I plan to keep my loc extensions permanently, but I need to learn how to care for locs.  Honestly, I don't think my regimen of daily moisturizing and weekly wash and condition will change. 

I would also love to learn from some loc gurus.  I think the only loc gurus I know of are: Chesca.  Isn't she gorgeous?

And more recently, Jasmine Rose.  She seems so genuine and I love her locs.

I've been obsessing a bit, so I've sent my loctician, Kim, tons of texts and called her twice already... I'm not really good at letting go and enjoying any experience unless I know the outcome. I'm working on that!

So there you have it, locs are the next step in this Kinky Chic Experience.  Do you know any other loc'd folks who can inspire and inform? Let me know ;)

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Kinky Chic Experience

For the better part of my adult life, I adopted Korean culture. I attended a Korean church during high school and through college, and I felt like I was Korean. I watched Korean dramas, listened to Korean pop, spoke Korean, cooked and ate Korean food and most of my close friends are Korean.

Lately, what seemed so natural to me has become more mainstream (yay Hallyu), and honestly, I'm not as interested in Korean pop as I used to be. Don't get me wrong; I am a Shawol for life and Hangeng is my husband (he just doesn't know it yet), but I spend more of my time learning about the place I was born (Nigeria), expressing myself artistically through fashion and my hair (currently sporting a fro, moving to locs in two weeks), taking care of my skin with natural products, and generally, enjoying living a kinky chic lifestyle.

I decided late last year that I want to spend 2014 learning how to be my best and most authentic self: I want to cook more, learn more Yoruba traditions and live a simpler/cleaner life both inside (food and spirit) and outside (makeup free skin and natural hair). I'd like to document this journey on my blog.

Anime, manga, and Asian drama and pop are still a part of my life and I'll still talk about it here, but my primary focus has shifted from something outside of myself (Korean culture) to something within myself (kinky chic culture).

Here's what you can expect from the Kinky Chic Experience: K-Chic was Korean Chic, but it now stands for Kinky Chic. My blog will document my ever-changing and evolving hair styles and hair product collection, Nigerian cooking and exploring African and Asian restaurants in Manhattan, African clothes and styles, African (and maybe Asian) traditions, events related to Nigerian music in and around Manhattan, and my workout routines. I'm on a journey to discover and live as my most authentic self, and I believe kinky chic describes that "self" perfectly.

I think the elements (attributes, cultures and viewpoints) that you believe to be parts of you, will be the parts that create the sum that is you. This life equation will change during your life, and some parts will become important and others less so. I've spent a good amount of time documenting a very important part of my identity (Korean culture) and now I want to spend some time documenting another part of myself.

I hope you enjoy the Kinky Chic Experience, and that you stick around as we discover ourselves together. (I also have two kittens, so I'm bound to spend some time writing about my furbabies!)