African designs, £9.99
Height: 73.500 cm
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Asante (Ashanti), early 20th century
The traditional form of seating in many parts of Africa is a wooden stool. Among the Asante the stool is both a domestic piece of furniture, as well as being imbued with some spiritual qualities associated with its owner.
Europeans took chairs into Africa for personal use and not for trade, though they may have been copied by local leaders or given as gifts. During the nineteenth century wooden chairs were made that were based on European styles, but exclusively for the élite of Asante society.
This chair is made of wood and has a hide seat. The back is decorated with round-headed brass nails adorned with large, semi-spherical brass castings. In design it is based on seventeenth- or early eighteenth-century European styles called 'farthingale' or 'upholsterers' chairs. Chairs of this type are called asipim and are used by senior Asante chiefs when they meet to discuss important matters. Asipim translates as 'I stand firm' and alludes both to the stability of the chair and the authority of the chief. They are kept in the palaces of senior chiefs and tilted forward against a wall when not in use. These chairs may be paraded with other important items of regalia but have no special links with former owners.
Although highly prestigious objects, these chairs do not have the spritual significance which the Asante give to their traditional wooden stools.
M.D. McLeod, The Asante (London, The British Museum Press, 1981)
H.M. Cole and D.H. Ross, The arts of Ghana-1 (University of California - Los Angeles)