Ceremonial Stool

A work made of wood and brass.

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  • A work made of wood and brass.

Date:

Mid–/late 20th century

Artist:

Akan
Ghana
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

Stools are enormously significant for the Akan and are used in a variety of contexts. They constitute an important part of the furnishings of a household, carry symbolic meanings as icons of ritual power, and act as repositories of the souls of their deceased owners. This brass-covered stool most likely would have accompanied its owner to a public ceremony. Intended for display, it incorporates distincitive formal elements that reflect the patron’s wealth, status, and power. As is typical of the usual Akan stools, its carved, wooden, rectangular form consists of three parts–a top, a mid-section, and a base.
This stool combines two distinct types. The first is the two-tiered, abstract form called obi-te-obi-so-dwa (one-sits-atop-another stool). This imagery visually communicates, and indeed validates, Akan social hierarchy, comprising individuals of diverse rank working in harmony. The second, or lower tier, featuring two crocodile motifs on front and back, reflects the stool form known as adenkyemdwa (crocodile seat). Important ritual objects (sometimes even altars) of Asante gods may be displayed on some stools during important public ceremonies. The sheet brass that covers the stool enhances the piece’s significance since brass (together with silver) is a preferred metal of the Akan religious elite. Moreover, the hammered, linear repoussé patterns–dots, circles, quatrefoils, lozenges, and crescents–that embellish the surface are reminiscent of designs usually found on Akan soul washers’ badges. Thus this stool must have belonged to either a priest or a politician with considerable ritual status.
As symbols of authority, Akan stools are now inseparable form the idea of chiefship, the highest Akan political office. Not only must every Akan leader receive one as his personal, official emblem, but his legitimacy is often predicated on his use of a communally owned stool at his installation.
–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

Artist

Akan

Title

Ceremonial Stool

Origin

Ghana

Date

1950–1999

Medium

Wood and brass

Dimensions

43.8 x 62.2 cm (17 1/4 x 24 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Restricted gift of Mrs. James W. Alsdorf

Reference Number

1995.148

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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