- Museum number
- Series: Asante Gold
State sword (a) with iron blade, and carved wooden bar-bell-shaped handle covered with gold-leaf (afena). Sword scabbard (b) made of shark skin and antelope skin (boha), with one attached gold disc and one detached gold disc (c) shaped from sheet gold (nmem abosodee). Both discs have a repoussé central boss decorated with concentric patterns of fine parallel lines incised from the front.
- Production date
Diameter: 6.80 centimetres (c)
Length: 70 centimetres (a)
Length: 7.50 centimetres (c)
Weight: 26.26 grammes (c)
- Curator's comments
- It is not known when swords were introduced into the area now known as Ghana but early examples probably derive from Islamic weapons that were passed down the trans-Saharan trade routes. There are several distinct types of state swords normally found in the regalia of an important leader or paramount chief. By far the most important of the ceremonial swords are the keteanofena (literally; edge of the sleeping mat swords), these are revered and are passed from one ruler to his successor as a major portion of state regalia. This group is composed of two major sub-divisions the akrafena and the bosomfena. Akrafena, or ‘swords of the soul’ are used, as their name suggests, in fairly restricted, often private rituals for the purification of the ruler’s soul and the purification of the blackened state stools while swords in the second division, the bosomfena, play a more varied and public role.
These two groups of swords embody and represent two distinct spiritual elements; those on the Asantehene’s right (akrafena) represent his soul or life-force (kra), those on the left (bosomfena), his ego, spirit or personality (sunsum) that was inherited from his father. Elders also swear allegiance to their ruler on these swords and they may be carried as badges of office for a ruler’s messengers.
Swords of the akrafena division of the keteanofena may sometimes be distinguished from those in the bosomfena group by virtue of the fact that their leather or ray-skin scabbards and hilts may be whitened with clay and the pommel ornament may be an openwork flower shape rather than the conical form normally seen on bosomfena swords; akrafena are also likely to be seen without the very large cast gold representational ornaments, abosodee tied onto the scabbards of bosomfena swords. Instead, they may have a simple embossed circular plate, nmem.
- On display (G25/dc16)
- Fair. One gold disc (c) is detached. The reverse of the detached disc shows traces of red clay (inchuma) adhering to the recesses.
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Af1974,Q.2933 (Q-Register, in error)
Miscellaneous number: Af1979,01.4668a-b (revised Q-Register, in error)