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Asante Gold

Soul-bearer's badge made of gold.

AN124818001001

© The Trustees of the British Museum

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  • Detail: InscriptionDetail: Inscription
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Department: Africa, Oceania & the Americas

Registration number: Af1973,07.1

Bibliographic reference
Ehrlich 1981
Sheales 2012 1.4

Location:
G47/dc13

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Object types
pendant (scope note | all objects)
dish (all objects)
soul disc (scope note | all objects)

Title (series)
Asante Gold
Materials
silver (scope note | all objects)
gold (scope note | all objects)
Techniques
repoussé (all objects)
incised (scope note | all objects)
gilded (scope note | all objects)
lost-wax cast (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Made by R & S Garrard & Co (dish) (biographical details | all objects)
Production place
Made in Asante Region (pendant) (all objects)
(Africa,Ghana,Asante Region)
Made in London (dish) (scope note | all objects)
(Europe,British Isles,England,London)
Place (findspot)
Found/Acquired Royal Palace (?) (scope note | all objects)
(Africa,Ghana,Asante Region,Kumase,Royal Palace (Kumase))
Date
1874 (dish)
19thC early (pendant before 1874)
Ethnic group
Associated with Asante (scope note | all objects)


Description
1) Lost wax casting in gold of a flat uni-facial star-shaped pendant (awisiado/ewisiado) with a raised conical boss, decorated with repoussé work. The boss is embellished with six raised loops that are situated vertically with the wider ends towards the base. The boss is surrounded by a concentric circle which is enclosed by a repoussé work sixteen-lobed circle. The main ground is decorated with a symmetrical pattern of repoussé work scrolls interspersed with foliage. The border consists of five concentric circles of narrow width decorated with alternating plain circles and circles decorated with incised parallel lines and zig-zag patterns. The rim has a corolla of twenty evenly-spaced points projecting outwards from its outer edge, all of which are surmounted by a hollow cast gold finial, and decorated with a series of internally nested triangles, some of which are decorated with incised lines. The two rectangular section suspension lugs have been cut or flattened in order to secure the disc, by means of a bolted screw to the underside of the dish which it now forms an integral part of.

2) The silver gilt dish has bands of concentric decoration comprising elaborate applied relief motifs and gadrooning. The inner border of foliate ornament has been specially designed to echo the motifs on the disc pendant.

Inscriptions
Inscription Type: inscription
Inscription Position: reverse
Inscription Language: English
Inscription Content: R.G. crowned

Inscription Type: inscription
Inscription Position: underside of dish
Inscription Language: English
Inscription Content: The gold ornament in the centre of this dish is a portion of the indemnity paid by the Ashanti King Coffee Calcalli to Her Majesty’s Forces under the command of Major-General Sir Garnet J. Wolseley, January 1874.
Inscription Comment: The inscription [on the underside of the silver-gilt dish] which seems to indicate that the indemnity gold was paid to the British Forces in January 1874, is obviously in error, because Kumase was taken on February 4th 1874.

Inscription Type: hallmark
Inscription Position: reverse
Inscription Language: English
Inscription Content: London 1874


Dimensions
Height: 7 centimetres
Depth: 7 centimetres
Diameter: 61.5 centimetres


Condition
Good. A repair patch can be seen on the front of the pendant at the base of one of the suspension lugs where it joins to the rim. There are no traces of wear on the lug rims suggesting that this piece was not used or was newly cast when acquired.

Curator's comments
This pendant is one of the largest and most impressive of the known 1874 soul priest’s ornaments. As part of the indemnity gold, it was held out of the auction at Cape Coast Castle and sold, together with many of the finest objects, by Garrard’s in London. In view of the large size, excellent workmanship and data identifying it as indemnity gold, it is almost certain that this piece was used by one of the Asantehene’s more important soul priests.

This item demonstrates a double borrowing of cultural elements. The motifs around the boss of the pendant have been adapted from European decorative forms. These in turn have been copied and elaborated by Garrards.

Pendants in this form were worn by the priest of Onyame, the Supreme creator god, but in recent decades pendants of this shape have been worn by the Asantehene's servants known as akra (soul-washers).

In Akan proverbs the stars represent people and are contrasted with the moon, representing the chief. The stars remain unchanged while the moon waxes and wanes in the same way the people are always there though chiefs come and go.
Associated Proverbs: 'The evening star desirous of being married, always stays close to the moon,' signifies in a political context that people love their chief and will support him.


Ehrlich, Martha J. 1981. A Catalogue of Ashanti Art Taken From Kumasi in the Anglo-Ashanti War of 1874. (Unpublished PhD Thesis) Indiana: Indiana University.
‘[…] this disc is one of the largest and most impressive of the known 1874 soul priest’s discs. It was acquired by the British Museum (Museum of Mankind) at some time after March 31st 1972 after field research had been completed. The inscription [on the underside of the silver-gilt dish] which seems to indicate that the indemnity gold was paid to the British Forces in January 1874, is obviously in error, because Kumasi was taken on February 4th 1974. The army withdrew the next day and was subsequently overtaken at Fomena by Ashanti envoys with the indemnity gold.



Associated names
Emblem of William Alleyne Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Exeter (biographical details | all objects)
Named in inscription Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley (biographical details | all objects)
Associated with Asantehene Kofi Karikari (biographical details | all objects)


Acquisition date
1973

Acquisition name
Purchased from Mrs J Coram Wright (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection William Alleyne Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Exeter (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Major-General Herbert Eaton, 3rd Baron Cheylesmore (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
The silver gilt dish was commissioned by William Alleyne Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Exeter (also known as Lord Burghley) and made by R and S Garrard in 1874. The coronet and crest of the Marquess appears on the dish. Evidently the piece then passed to the family of Major-General Lord Cheylesmore, who was the vendor’s step-father, and was acquired by the British Museum from his descendants.


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