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UMMA Object Specific Fields






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Gold-weight

Accession Number
1997/1.510

Title
Gold-weight

Artist(s)
Akan

Artist Nationality
Akan (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
1900-1985

Medium & Support
brass

Dimensions
1 7/16 in x 9/16 in x 1 1/8 in (3.7 cm x 1.5 cm x 2.9 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis

Subject matter
Figurative gold-weight in the form of a side-blown elephant horn (akoben) with three crotal bells (donnomma) around the wider end. One of the most common musical instrument depicted in gold-weights, these horns were created using ivory from the tusks of elephants. The use of these horns was associated with those victorious in war as well as chiefs, whose arrival was announced with musicians blowing these horns and beating drums. Phrases that copied the tonal language of Twi were played to praise the chief and his achievements, heard not only by the community but by ancestors and spirits as well. In this way, these musical instruments were used to communicate with the living and the dead, which rallied all members of the community around the chief on important occasions (cf. Sheales, African Goldweights, 2014). The proverbs associated with these horns reflect their past use in war and their communicative properties: 'The war horn (akoben) means trouble is on the way' (cf. Sheales, African Goldweights, 2014); 'When an army is defeated a horn is not blown in its honour' (cf. MacLeod, The Asante, 1981, p. 110); 'The horn allows us to know the rank of the chief'; and 'If a horn deserves a jawbone they attach one to it' (cf. Garrard, Akan Weights and the Gold Trade, 1980, p. 209).

Physical Description
Gold-weight in the shape of a curved rod with three round protrusions on the wider end. The opposite end tapers into a rounded point. 

Primary Object Classification
Metalwork

Primary Object Type
goldweight

Collection Area
African

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
communication (function)
goldweights
measuring
miniature (size attribute)
musical instruments
regalia
weighing devices

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display