Asante weights

Drummer and drum from a set of Asante gold weights
Gold Coast (Ghana), nineteenth or twentieth century

Gold dust functioned as a universal medium of exchange in West Africa, measured by scale according to a standardised system of weights. Designs for the weights and boxes were both geometric and figurative. Figurative designs featured a wide range of animate objects (animals, fish, insects and birds) and inanimate objects (musical instruments, tools, weapons and status objects). Men, women and children were also sculpted, engaged in a host of activities. The significance of the gold weights as an art form transcends their economic function, sometimes alluding to proverbs and folktales, and reflecting wider Asante spiritual beliefs and cultural practices. This set was purchased from a Hausa trader by D. M. Lawson in the Gold Coast during 1926–32.

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