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Linguist Staff with Rooster and Hen (Okyeame Poma)

A work made of wood and gold leaf.

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  • A work made of wood and gold leaf.


Early/mid–20th century


Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

The Asante kingdom was the most powerful of numerous states that emerged at the beginning of the 15th century within the present-day country of Ghana. The kingdom’s position between the rich gold fields of the north and the coast, where European ships vied for trade, assured its wealth and maintained its focus on gold as a symbol of affluence and power. Asante art is often related to oral traditions, including messages expressed through proverbs, sayings, or accounts of history. Staffs with decorative finials like this one bearing the figures of a rooster and hen are owned by the official spokesman, or linguist, of an Asante chief as symbols of his office.

This finial refers to the proverb, “The hen knows well when it is dawn, but leaves it to the cock to announce.” This proverb may reference the decision-making power of the chief, represented by the rooster, as opposed to the wisdom of the elders, represented by the hen, and the role the linguist plays in mediating between the two. This staff, thus, is not only a royal insignia, but also a symbol of the shrewd and eloquent diplomat that the okyeame, or linguist, must be.


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Arts of Africa




Linguist Staff with Rooster and Hen (Okyeame Poma)


Ghana (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Wood and gold leaf


170.2 × 15.2 × 20.3 cm (67 × 6 × 8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Richard Faletti, the Faletti Family Collection

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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