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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Masterpieces of African Art : Akan Gold Zoomorphic Pendant
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Akan Gold Zoomorphic Pendant - FJ.6846A
Origin: Lagoons Region, Ivory Coast
Circa: 1600 AD to 1800 AD
Dimensions: 3.5" (8.9cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Gold

Location: UAE
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Ivoirian goldsmiths are famous for their variety of ornamental pendants. The shapes are either abstract or stylized representations of the animal world. This remarkable pendant, with its curved tail and serrated teeth might depict either a type of sawfish or a crocodile, both of which were common subject matters. Early accounts refer to such jewels as “fetishes,” suggesting that they may have originally possessed magical protective powers; however, today they are generally believed to be merely decorative. The lagoons people have used such ornaments since at least the seventeenth century, when European visitors first noticed that the coastal men and women tied gold jewels in their hair.

Pairs of loop holes on either side of this work suggest that it was worn either as a necklace or woven into an elaborate coiffure. While up to the nineteenth century, men and women frequently adorned their bodies with several gold ornaments, this tradition has slowly died out. However, among the lagoons people, these pendants continue to play a crucial role in a spectacular public festival known as the “exhibition of gold.” Observers noted that the pride of the “big men” was to publicly exhibit their wealth spread out across a table. Entrepreneurs would aspire to acquire enough wealth in the form of gold ornaments in order to improve his status and elevate himself to the ranks the “big men.”

Such pendants were most often inherited from ancestors, having remained in the family for generation, although an individual could commission new works in order to heighten his standing. This festival was an important social event that could make or break a person’s standing within the village. If one’s table of gold did not favorably compare to the wealth of other exhibitors, he could be humiliated. However, if one’s amount and quality of pendants surpassed that of others, he could be praised with newfound respect and secure a spot among the “big men.” The openwork triangles found in the body of this pendant are typical of the lagoons style. Whether worn in the hair, hung upon a necklace, or placed upon a table amongst other such works, this golden pendant reflects the luxurious wealth and masterful artistry of the Ivory Coast. - (FJ.6846A)


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