- Museum number
- Series: Asante Gold
A triangular amulet case (safi) made from a piece of sheet gold which has been folded into shape. It is decorated on one side with a repoussé work symmetrical pattern that features a circular raised boss surrounded by four motifs that resemble cowrie shells or leaves which are highlighted with dot-punching. The reverse consists of three folded edges that have been drilled along their length with holes to enable this item to be sewn to clothing, sandals, head-dress or a weapon.
- Production date
- 19thC early (before 1874)
Length: 3.60 centimetres
Weight: 5.24 grammes
Width: 7.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Scholars have argued that the adoption of Islamic amulets known as safi’s and sebe’s by the peoples of the Gold Coast dates back to the fourteenth century A.D. and was predicated on their association with the written word, which was in and of itself considered magical.
Such charms were extremely popular with the Asante, who used them according to Bowdich, to avert ‘all evils but sickness, (which they can only assuage) and natural death’ (Bowdich 1819:271). He further stated that Ashanti’s valued these charms so greatly that they would pay exorbitant prices to the Moslems for them, and, once owning them, felt themselves to be virtually invincible (?no citation). As proof of their efficaciousness Bowdich added that ‘[…] several of the Ashantee captains offered seriously to let us fire at them’ (Bowdich 1819, 272).
The majority of amuletic inscriptions take the form of a single phrase or phrases selected from the Koran which are repeatedly written in symmetrical geometric shapes such as squares, trianlges or circles that are believed to possess spiritual balance. Interestingly, the same configurations also inform the design of Asante war shirts (batakari) and funeral cloths (adinkra). The paper is then encased in dyed leather, tanned animal skin or cloth coverings which are often embellished with embroidered or repoussé patterns or alternatively, encased in gold or silver foil. Silver and gold repousse cases (like this) are normally reserved for persons of rank.
Th absence of most of the gold wire stitching at the back of this amulet case implies that it was opened up at some point in the past and the inscription removed.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Temporary Register,1861-1921.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number