Goldweight Depicting a Chameleon

Date:

19th/mid–20th century

Artist:

Asante or related Akan-speaking peoples
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. Although used in economic transactions, the individual pieces could also function symbolically as indicators of wealth when placed on display.
Many types of animals, birds, and reptiles are represented in Akan proverb gold weights. The chameleon, which we see here, is a common symbol of transformation but also of wisdom in many West African societies. This weight is cast in the form of a flat-bodied chameleon standing on four legs with an arched back, protruding eyes, an open mouth, and a coiled tail. Its body is textured with rough hatch marks.
—Permanent Collection Object Description

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa

Artist

Asante

Title

Goldweight Depicting a Chameleon

Origin

Ghana

Date

1800–1950

Medium

Copper alloy

Dimensions

4.5 x 2.3 x 9.2 cm (1 3/4 x 7/8 x 3 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman

Reference Number

2007.599

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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