Asante, Ghana / Goldweight (Abrammuo) / 1700-1900Asante, Ghana
Goldweight (Abrammuo)

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Creator Nationality: African
Creator Name-CRT: Asante, Ghana
Title: Goldweight (Abrammuo)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1700
Creation End Date: 1900
Creation Date: 1700-1900
Creation Place: Ghana, Africa
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Metal (brass)
Dimensions: Length: 2 1/4"; width: 11/16"
Description: A large brass figurative goldweight representing a hornbill. The bird has an elliptical body with concentric grooved wings, a short neck, a round head with round slit eyes, a broad flat beak which is squared at the end and there are nostrils at the base. There are a border of notched squares on each side of the head from the neck over the eyes to the nostrils and there is a short fan-shaped tail. Long round legs and large webbed 3 clawed feet each having a rear talon.
AMICA Contributor: Brooklyn Children's Museum
Owner Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA
ID Number: 84.31.52
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Herbert S. Zim, 1984
Context: The Asante (Ashanti) and other Akan groups made and used goldweights to weigh gold dust, their principal medium of exchange until it was abolished by the British in 1889. To the Asante, gold represented the spirit of the sun, was possessed of supernatural powers, and was considered sacred.

Each man with a commercial business owned a set of 70 or more weights and accessories, their quality indicating his status. A young man would receive his goldweight set from his father. They were all kept in a cloth or leather bundle, and the set was added to as the man prospered.

The best weights were made late in the 18th to early 19th centuries when the Asante Kingdom was at its height. Goldweights were made by the lost wax casting method. The earliest weights (1500-1700) were geometric in appearance, followed by a period of figurative weights depicting plants, animals, objects and humans (1700-1900). Weights were also cast directly from natural objects such as insects, peanuts and cocoons. Ninety percent of existing weights are geometric in form. Although the symbolism is obscure, geometric forms probably represent the sun, moon, water and procreation. Many figurative weights recall proverbs related to everyday life. Weights sometimes had to be adjusted after casting to make them conform to standards - lead fill would be added to geometric weights, and metal bands to figurative weights to make them heavier if necessary; goldweights that were too heavy could be filed down.

Proverb: One should never rub bottoms with a porcupine. (Don't get into a fight with someone who can hurt you more than you can hurt them.)

AMICA ID: BCM_.84.31.52
AMICA Library Year: 2003
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