Linguist (Okyeame) Staff
Arts of Africa
On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Southern and central Ghana and the Côte d’Ivoire have been ruled for several centuries by highly stratified kingdoms that use elaborate symbols of status. Among the Fante and the Akan, high-ranking advisers to the king called linguists (okyeame) carry gold staffs in royal processions. These staffs often have carvings at the top illustrating proverbs or messages from the king to his subjects. At the top of this staff, a mouse attempts to enter a pouch on a cat’s back, illustrating the proverb “It is only a foolish mouse that tries to get into the cat’s bag.” In other words, it is an unwise person who dares to meddle in the king’s business.
Wood, gold leaf
62 3/4 x 7 x 3 9/16 in. (159.4 x 17.8 x 9 cm) (show scale)
Designated Purchase Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license
. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply.
Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact email@example.com
Fante. Linguist (Okyeame) Staff, 20th century. Wood, gold leaf, 62 3/4 x 7 x 3 9/16 in. (159.4 x 17.8 x 9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Designated Purchase Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 85.200.1a-d. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 85.200.1a-d_PS1.jpg)
overall, 85.200.1a-d_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
The staff is carved in wood and covered with gold leaf. It is made in three sections, not including the detachable carved finial. Each of the three sections comprising the staff has a carved surface decorated with different motifs, such as herringbone, lozenge-shape and barber pole. The middle of each section is encircled by a raised band with geometric patterns. The finial represents a cat with a mouse crawling up its back towards its pouch which is attached around the cats neck by a cord. The cat's left paw is raised.
Condition: Leaf very thin and flaking off in parts.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.