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Goldweight Depicting a Monkey

A work made of copper alloy.

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  • A work made of copper alloy.


18th/early 20th century


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

About this artwork

The Akan used the lost-wax technique to create brass-cast weights for economic transactions involving gold. Although it is not clear when the convention of weights was first introduced, there is evidence that the Akan people traded gold with Islamized merchants from the West African interior grasslands many centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Some goldweights correspond to the Islamic weight system of North African, and appear to be fundamentally linked to the trans-Saharan trade, in which Arabs were deeply involved.
Akan artists employed an assortment of figurative motifs in executing such miniature brass castings. These forms, which are less common than the abstract weights and are remarkably ornate, appear to have been modeld in the period of hegemony of the Asante kingdom, from 1700 to 1874. Humans and animals appear as solitary forms, but there are also narrative compositions. Regardless of whether the figures are single or part of a larger compositon, their intention seems to have been to communicate a message of a collective or personal nature.
Animal forms expand the subgenre of proverbial images. Each motif is invested with philosophical meaning. Thus this monkey goldweight may evoke the following saying: “The monkey says, ‘if you fill my cheeks with food, then I shall reveal the truth and tell you,’” which suggests that truth-speaking may be conditioned by well-being.
–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


Akan-speaking peoples


Goldweight Depicting a Monkey


Côte d'Ivoire (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.



Copper alloy


2.5 × 4.5 × 2.1 cm (1 × 1 3/4 × 13/16 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wielgus

Reference Number


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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