About this artwork
For most Akan, gold is not just wealth. Gold is imbued with enormous spiritual value, especially within the ranks of leadership. Thus, while the economic function of gold among the Akan has diminished with its demonitization by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century, gold has retained its fundamental significance in political regalia. Using modest technology–lost-wax casting and smithing–Akan craftspeople have fashioned intriguing and exquisite forms. The use of gold in leadership regalia is rooted in tradition, belief, and intrinsic worth, as is the use of its inferior relatives, silver and brass. It is therefore possible to differentiate among leaders–priests, political functionaries, lowly-ranked and paramount chiefs–simply on the basis of the principal medium of the accoutrements.
Among the diverse kinds of gold jewelry featured in Akan chiefly dress are pendants of different sizes and shapes, including human, animal, and abstract designs. Today these objects, cast by the lost-wax technique, are no longer a royal prerogative. They have been documented in the ornamentation of young women undergoing puberty rites and in the possession of persons of wealth and high status. Their current broad geographical distribution also suggests the influence of twentieth century globalism. Indeed, gold pendants are no longer being manufactured exclusively for use in Africa but are made for sale in tourist shops and galleries, and for export. The motif depicted here–a ram’s head–is a traditional Akan icon of power. [See also 1991.391 and 1991.393].
–Revised from Nii Otokunor Quarcoopome, “Art of the Akan,” African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Studies, vol. 23, no. 2 (1997), pp. 135-147.
- Currently Off View
- Arts of Africa
- Pendant (Ram Head)
- Côte d'Ivoire
- 7.1 × 7.9 × 0.6 cm (2 7/8 × 3 1/8 × 1/4 in.)
- Gift of Grace Hokin