- Museum number
- Series: Asante Gold
Hollow lost wax casting in gold of a bead in the form of an elephant’s tail fly-whisk (sikampra). One side of the bead is plain except for two rows of single dots located around the triangular void in the handle and the presence of an integral lost wax cast circular suspension loop. The reverse of the handle is covered in a stipple effect dot pattern. The top of the handle is surmounted by a deep circular cuff which has a round hole cast into the centre for suspension.
- Production date
- 19thC early (before 1874)
Length: 4 centimetres
Weight: 5.50 grammes
Width: 1.70 centimetres
Depth: 0.90 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The elephant is a royal beast and anyone who killed one traditionally had to surrender its tail, tusks and ears to the King. The ears were used as drum skins, the tusks to make side-blown horns and the tail became a fly-whisk.
The stipple-effect on the handle of this casting suggests that it was intended to represent an elephant tail that functioned as a royal fly whisk.
Elephant-tail flywhisks (sikampra) are traditionally carried by small boys (aperahofo) who always walk and perform their public duties in pairs. These boys are normally the grandsons and nephews of the king or chief for whom they work, and they are not paid for their service. Their office is the least important of all the posts in an Akan court. Flywhisks are held in the right hand, but rested, when not in use, on the left shoulder. They are not allowed to touch the bearer’s skin, but rest upon a fold of cloth drawn up over the shoulder. Aperahafo walk in pairs just in front of the king they serve in processions, one to each side, while they flourish their flywhisks from time to time. When their master is seated, they are grouped behind and to each side of his chair or stool. Not every chief is allowed the use of elephant-tail fly-whisks as part of his regalia; only kings, paramount chiefs and other powerful leaders may use them. Lower-ranking leaders have to content themselves with flywhisks made of horsetails.
The Asante always associate elephants with royalty, and many proverbs are concerned with the obvious equation of royal power with that of an elephant.
‘The elephant is capable of whisking off flies with his tail, short as it is,’ indicating that unavoidable handicaps should not be used as an excuse for inactivity or laziness. Such cautionary proverbs are designed both for ruler and subject and reflect something of the interdependence of king and subject that is so prominent a feature of Asante culture.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- See Christy Correspondence (File C)
Letter from W Sargeaunt, Crown Agents for the Colonies, 22 January 1877, confirming price of £371. 0. 4. for 100.275 ozs. of 'Ashantee Gold Ornaments.'
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
CDMS number: Af1876C6.44 (old CDMS no.)