In Nigeria, the anklet, known by various names such as ankle chain, ankle bracelet, ankle string, and leg chain, remains a highly debated fashion accessory predominantly worn by women. In common language, the accessory is referred to as a leg chain, although anklet is the more widely accepted English term.
The act of wearing ankle jewelry is not a recent phenomenon but has been a part of our culture for a considerable period of time. Undoubtedly, it holds a significant place in our traditions, and regardless of our personal preferences, certain customs persist throughout generations, whether they are considered beneficial or not.
From ancient times, anklets have been present and were commonly worn by older women in Africa and Egypt as a means of displaying their beauty, status, charm, and uniqueness, as per studies. Although anklets are typically worn as a fashionable accessory, various tribes and belief systems attribute distinct interpretations to them.
The term used to refer to anklets in the Hausa culture is ‘Sarkan kafa’. In this culture, it is acceptable for women to wear a leg chain, but there is a specific condition that it should only be visible to their legal spouse. The purpose of wearing this chain is for the husband alone to see and hear the sound it makes when the woman walks. Ultimately, wearing a leg chain in northern Nigeria symbolizes both marriage and decoration within the Hausa culture.
In Igbo culture, the anklet holds great significance, representing prestige, affluence, and aesthetics. These anklets are crafted using materials such as elephant tusks, beads, and brass, and are prominently featured in cultural rituals, festivities, as well as important occasions like coronations and the bestowal of chieftaincy titles.
Lastly, in Yoruba tradition, wearing leg chains denoted the representation and essence of offspring. The purpose of wearing these beads is primarily symbolic rather than decorative, making it predominantly worn by Chiefs. Hence, these are the significant reasons why leg chains are worn by renowned tribes and women.