This unusual metal vessel was made by one of the groups that make up the Akan polity of Ghana (most likely the Ashanti/Asante). It is a rare form, being egg-shaped with discrete spherical feet, rather than the usual straight-sided vessel with an integral flange or pedestal base. The vessel is divided into top and bottom halves, and ten again to make eight equal segments. Each of these contains symbols which echo the designs of Akan gold-weights. The lid fits closely and follows the profile of the vessel; the knop is circular and displays a piece of rope/twine.
The Ashanti/Asante are one of the many tribes that make up the Akan polity, which all share general cultural trends while maintaining separate tribal identities. Their society is highly ritualised, with numerous gods under a main deity. Government is under leaders called Asantahenes, and a host of minor chiefs. The Asante are particularly well known for their work in wood, ivory and – especially –metal.
This vessel is known as a “kuduo”, which is cast using the lost wax process, and not to be confused with sheet-brass “forowa” vessels (which are used for containing food and fat, among other substances). Their use seems to have been variable, but they are always associated with elite personages within Asante society. Recorded uses include expensive items such as gold dust, gold weights and pearls, while other sources cite their use in religious ceremonies. They are very variable in terms of design, with an assortment of zoomorphic, anthropomorphic and geometric motifs which are assumed to have relevance for the different subgroups which produced them.
This is an attractive and even usable piece of African art, and a beautiful addition to any collection or sophisticated domestic setting.
Arthur, G. and Rowe, R. 1999-2001. Akan Metal Casting. Downloaded from http://www.marshall.edu/akanart/abrammoo.html
Bacquart, J-B. 2000. The Tribal Arts of Africa: Surveying Africa’s Artistic Heritage. Thames and Hudson, London.
T. Garrard, 1989. 'Gold of Africa'. Prestel-Verlag Publishing, Munich.