In the 50s of last century, the ‘slave bracelet’ became very popular in The Netherlands (and probably also in the UK and the USA). I owned a golden slave bracelet, with no decoration, just a smooth band with a hinge clasp. You had them in silver too. In ads for this slave bracelets they used black women, and at that time it was not really a problem. That is: you did not hear any complaint from organizations or persons, that this was discrimination.

On August 23 the world ‘celebrates’ the abolition of slavery. Sorry to say that celebrating the abolition of slavery does not mean that there is no slavery in this world anymore. Mostly girls are still sold by their parents to a groom (without the consent of the girl), to an employer or to the sex industry. And when you study the circumstances people have to work in factories in some parts of the world, you could easily name that as slavery too. And that is 2017!


Evolution in the shape of the slave bracelet


Is a ‘slave bracelet’ nowadays a symbol of slavery?

The bracelets have the shape of the chains that the slaves were wearing when they were transported or had to work outside, especially in Northern America and the Caribean.

But what was the meaning of these slave bracelets? Is it that we just liked them in those times and we did not think where the shape originated? Did we like that silver or golden simple accent on our wrists and women’s liberation movements were not fanatic at the time? And what about these days? Isn’t it time to alter the word ‘slave bracelet’? And find another word for a smooth simple band for our wrist?

The slave bracelet in the different cultures


Is everybody wearing a ‘slave bracelet’ owned by someone?

When you dive into history these kinds of bands or bracelets were only worn by the slaves from Western Africa. They were also used in India by the belly dancers, although the bracelet with chains was worn over the top of a hand ending in a ring. The slave bracelets were also a part of the harem jewelry. An element of slavery occurs in every old culture that knew these bracelets. Nowadays they are popular in the SM scene and among the young people, who probably have no idea where the shape and the idea of their favorite bracelets come from.

From the 16th century on these bracelets were made of iron or bronze without any clasp. It was a permanent band put around a wrist of a slave to prevent him or her from escaping. In India, these kinds of bracelets were made of silver or gold. And they were called ‘handflower’ or ‘Hathphool’. The hathphool was originally a piece of bridal jewelry with five rings connected with chains to a bangle bracelet. The rings represented female gods that could protect the bride in difficult times. But later there were only three rings attached to the bangle to represent the bond of matrimony (or sometimes slavery).

Hathphool bracelet from India


Also in a harem, the women were adorned with smooth silver or golden bands or bracelets, which they got from their masters. Maybe not the symbol of the slavery we know, but those women did not live in the harem according to their free will and they could not get out. So again a symbol of slavery.

And in this time you see them made from rubber, rope, leather, and all kind of materials that are smooth and easy to wear. And it does not have anything to do with slavery at all. Maybe the 23th of August, the Day of the Abolition of Slavery is a good day to start changing the name ‘slave bracelet’, into a ‘fighting for freedom bracelet’.

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