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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Archive : Akan Leather Sandals with Gold Ornaments
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Akan Leather Sandals with Gold Ornaments - PF.6127
Origin: Ghana
Circa: 20th th Century AD
Dimensions: 11" (27.9cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Leather and Gold

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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In many cultures throughout the world, gold has been associated with status, power, prestige and wealth. 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. The royal courts of the Akan people were reportedly the most splendid in Africa. Oral tradition and iconography in Akan works of art are very closely connected. Verbal and visual symbolism tells stories or proverbs. Imagery of royal power on court ornaments carry out messages that helps keep the balance and continuity within the society.

While gold ornamentation is often symbolic, sometimes it is purely decorative as is the cast with these sandals. Every Akan chief owned a pair of sandals and a helmet adorned with gold in order to distinguish himself from an ordinary tribesmen. Surely such beautiful regalia would instantly reveal that the owner is a man of power and prestige. While the gold ornaments covering the strap is the epitome of luxury, the leather sole has also been elegantly embellished with woven patterns echoing the contours of the sandal. Furthermore, the leather has also been died different colors including burgundy, yellow, and green, each accentuating the tightly woven patterns. The strap has been divided into squares, each square further divided into four triangular segments, each of which is covered in a gold panel. Many of the gold sheets have been stamped with various abstract and foliate motifs, adding a nice texture and further enhancing the sophistication of the work. The center of these squares is marked by a small golden bead. A gold panel in the form of a flower elegantly announces the middle of the strap. Quite simply, objects of overwhelming luxury such as this sandal were worn in order to proudly display the wealth and power of the chief, a wealth and power that remains as impressive to our eyes as it must have to his royal entourage. - (PF.6127)


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