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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Akan Gold : Baule Gold Pendant Head
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Baule Gold Pendant Head - FJ.6882
Origin: Ivory Coast
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 18 th Century AD
Dimensions: 2.25" (5.7cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Gold

Location: United States
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Some of the finest gold castings from the Ivory Coast are in the form of human heads, or more specifically, human faces. Although they are commonly referred to as “mask,” they have no known association with masking traditions or cults. These faces generally depict males with beards and small moustaches, although they could represent anyone, whether male or female, beautiful or ugly. The Baule call these pendants ngblo or stan trå, meaning, “a human head.” Both men and women traditionally wear them as hair ornaments or as necklaces. Occasionally, they are still publicly displayed during special festivals as signs of wealth and beauty. There was no particular restriction regarding the ownership of such ornaments. These works were not the private regalia of the king and his loyal followers, for they could be owned by anyone rich enough to afford one. Such pendant heads are said to represent “portraits” or friends and lovers. Others are told to depict deceased ancestors or former kings.

This gorgeous pendant is notable both for its inherent luxury as well as its sculptural simplicity. The face is framed by a semicircular disk, a form said to originate from European examples. The void between the outer edge of the face and the inner border of the frame is filled by a series of spiraling circles that may suggest an elaborately styled coiffure. Two loops holes joined to the top of the frame would have allowed this pendant to be worn on a necklace. The facial features are highly abstracted. Ears and eyebrows are represented, as are two circular keloid scars on the cheeks. These decorative scarifications served both as marks of prestige and beauty. While the openwork eyes appear first like hollow voids, the longer we gaze at this mask, the enormous cultural significance of this pendant becomes increasingly obvious, and we stare not at a work of art, but a representation of our lost friends and lovers memorialized in this treasure of African gold. - (FJ.6882)


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