Arts of Africa
Gold was extremely important in the economic and political life of the Akan kingdoms of southern Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Until the mid-nineteenth century, gold dust was the primary form of currency in the region. In order to measure precise amounts of gold, an elaborate system of weights, usually made of cast brass, developed by the seventeenth century. Gold weights took many forms: simple geometric shapes; animals, such as leopards or birds; objects, such as chairs or swords; and human figures. The figures, animals, and objects are often associated with proverbs. The sankofa bird, with head turned backward, represents the proverb “One must turn to the past to move forward.”
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Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Williams
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Akan. Gold Weight, 19th-20th century. Copper alloy, 1 1/4 x 3/4 x 3/4 in. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Williams, 88.192.129. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 88.192.129_PS6.jpg)
overall, 88.192.129_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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