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African Gold

The African continent tells endless stories of grandeur and adventure involving jewels and in sub-saharan Africa, gold splendors and blends harmoniously with the intense colors of this land.

Especially iconic are kwottenai kanye earrings in hammered gold which come from the Fulbe or Fulani nomad populations roaming between Mali and Niberia. In the area between Ghana and Benin documentation shows gold workmanship from 14th century Akan goldsmiths who were particularly skilled in lost wax techniques. They produce jewelry that is popular with the Krobo population, part of the Dangme ethnic group in southeast Ghana who share a number of cultural traits with the Ashanti and the Baule’.

Ashanti, collana in perle di oro in fusione a cera persa e perle veneziane, collezione privata
Ashanti, gold necklace, private collection

These animist peoples wear jewelry as ornaments, as a status symbol and most of all as an amulet: anthropomorphic figures and masks on rings and pendants are worn over kente fabric. Brightly stylized animals contain great symbolic and apotropaic meaning.

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Rectangles are associated to doors and symbolize the chief’s clairvoyance and ability to see inside and outside the hut while a circle, depending on its size, is called a “puddle” or “sunset” with clear reference to the elements and the force of Nature.

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Towering encased rings and powerful bracelets called benkum benfra are worn in great numbers: headwear includes headbands, crowns and hair decorations in gold-plate and even glasses are embellished with gold.

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Necklines and chests are embellished with disc-shaped bibs (kra), pendants, and strands of gold chains that twist and twine with colorful pearls in Venetian glass, which were once believed to come from the soil, just like precious gemstones, but instead they were brought to the continent by traders.

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