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HOME : Islamic Art : AS.USA : Akan Gold Mask Pendant
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Akan Gold Mask Pendant - FJ.6873
Origin: Ghana/Southeastern Ivory Coast
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 1.65" (4.2cm) high
Collection: African Art
Style: Akan
Medium: Gold


Additional Information: AS.USA

Location: United States
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Description
In many cultures throughout the world, gold has been associated with status, power, wealth and prestige. As early as the 15th century, European merchants wrote about the richness of African gold objects used for adornment and intended for public display. Gold deposits were discovered in all regions of Africa, and became the most important commodity during pre- colonial times. The region of the Akan, spreading from the forest zone and costal areas of Ghana to the southern shores of the Ivory Coast, is the richest auriferous zone in West Africa. Several individual tribes make up the Akan people, the Asante and Baule being among the most famous, all united by their common ancestry and language.

Some of the finest gold castings from this area 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. Decorative scarifications, considered both a sign of rank and marks of beauty, dot the forehead, brow, and cheek. The face is framed by a circular disk, a form said to originate from European examples. This gorgeous pendant mask is stunning not so much for the inherent worth and splendor of the material, but more for the outstanding artistry and workmanship. Gold is among the most treasured material on earth. However, this artist of this pendant has transformed the natural wonder of the gold into something even more precious: a masterpiece of African art. - (FJ.6873)

 

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