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Goldweight Depicting a Monkey

A work made of bronze.

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  • A work made of bronze.

Date:

Early/mid–20th century

Artist:

Akan-speaking peoples
Côte d’Ivoire or Ghana
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

Weights for measuring gold dust were made and used throughout Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire for more than five centuries, from about 1400 to 1900. These weights are either figurative or abstract and are usually divided into an early period (c. 1400–1700) and a late period (c. 1700–1900). During the late period, an increased variety and number of figurative weights emerged, although abstract weights continued to be made. Around the late 14th century, gold mined in the Akan forest regions began to be traded northward—first to the centers of the West African Sahel and then across the Sahara to North Africa. In order to carry out this trade more efficiently, the Akan created two series of weights, one based on the Islamic ounce and one based on the miskal of gold dust. Other weights were later devised for trade with the Portuguese in the late 15th century and with the Dutch after 1600. Brass-cast gold weights ceased being used at the beginning of the 20th century when gold was replaced by bank notes and coinage. However, they continued to be made for sale to tourists.
Many types of animals, birds, and reptiles are represented in Akan gold weights. This one features a fluidly rendered monkey—an animal symbolically associated with proverbs related to the Akan lifestyle and worldview.
—Permanent Collection Object Description

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa

Culture

Akan-speaking peoples

Title

Goldweight Depicting a Monkey

Origin

Côte d'Ivoire

Date

Made 1900–1975

Medium

Bronze

Dimensions

Appro×. 2.5 × 5.1 cm (1 × 2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of John Reuter-Pacyna and Jay Zerbe

Reference Number

2005.463

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 . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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