Gold, textiles, trade, history & identity in Mali and Ghana

Project team

  • Claude Ardouin, project leader
  • Julie Hudson
  • David Noden

Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas 


  • Dr Samuel Sidibe, Director General, Musée National du Mali
  • Dr Salia Malé, Head of Documentation, Musée National du Mali
  • Musée National du Mali, Bamako (Mali)  
  • Dr Kodzo Gavua, Head of the Archaeology Department, University of Ghana at Legon (Ghana)

Supported by

  • The British Museum - The Townley Group
  • The British Museum Research Board
  • Department of Culture, Media and Sport (for African partners’ collections and research)

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Both goldsmiths’ work and textile production represent major traditional industries in West Africa. Starting from the late first millennium AD, these commodities occupied a prominent place in the trade between the west-African states and the Arab Mediterranean World. From the late fifteenth century, this trade also extended to European countries. They also played an important role in the cultures, political traditions and economic systems of the most powerful West-African states.

This research programme explores the place of gold and textiles in the history of West Africa, more precisely in Mali and Ghana, including the relations with North Africa, Europe and in West Africa. The historical, political, economic, social and cultural aspects are investigated within the perspective of evolution from past to present, cutting across contemporary Ghana and Mali, exdending to Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. The topic is related to a broader interest in the complex inter-relations between trade, exchanges and cultural history in West Africa, as reflected in the arts, material and intangible culture. 

The project is run in partnership between the British Museum and the National Museum of Mali and the Department of Archaeology of the University of Ghana at Legon. It involves joint field work with the partner institutions in order to develop relevant similar collections. These will be shared between the partner museum and the British Museum, together with related field documentation including oral tradition and visual records.


The objectives of this project are to build-up significant reference collections, documentation and records in each of the museum partners, with the view to be made accessible to be shared by the partners. The project is also expected to culminate with exhibitions in Mali, Ghana and the UK.