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Old 4th December 2009, 07:41 PM   #1
katana
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Default African Non-weapon, please can anyone ID origin and symbolism

Hi,
has anyone any ideas as to origin of this brass/bronze container, very heavy with animal motifs and geometric lines (reminds me of a Japanese Zen garden). Does not seem recent and seems to be cast. Not certain as to its use either. So any suggestions will be gratefully received.

Length 20 cms (8") height 10cms (4") width 13cms (5.1")

The animals are likely symbolic, talismatic or of some form of 'totem'. Again any sugggestions would be great.

I bought this to 'compliment' my African weapons, when they....finally will be displayed. Too many teenagers in the house (it would be tempting for them to 'play' with them ......I know I would , if I was in their position )

Thank you
David


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Old 5th December 2009, 03:56 PM   #2
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Hi David,
To my poor eyes and worse knowledge, it looks like lost wax work, similar to the looking of ceremonial daggers, like those from the Adamaua tribes
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ghlight=adamaua
Tim Simmons would most probably know.
I don't
But i like it.
Fernando
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Old 5th December 2009, 09:15 PM   #3
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Hi 'Nando ,
I'm glad you like it and thanks for your input. Yes, I too believe it is a lost wax casting. I wondered whether this was Ashanti, I have read that families owned similar 'boxes' to store gold and other precious items. There are many examples of Ashanti gold weights......made from brass/bronze these pieces are cast (lost wax) in many shapes (including zoomorphic, weapons, figures etc) and weights. Used on balance type scales to weigh gold dust/nuggets.

The animal designs seem to portray a turtle/tortoise and a lizard/crocodile. Whether these are 'guardian' spirits or 'good fortune' or protective icons, I have no idea.
The rounded body seems to have symbolism ....the sun ? I cannot work out the possible meaning of the fan shapes in the border ....simplified tufts of grass/reeds ? The linear design of the lid is mysterious too.

It weighs approx. 3.5 kgs ....so is no lightweight.....the 'box' seems to be cast in one piece.
I agree, Tim's great knowledge of casting may be able to shed more light.

Kind Regards David
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Old 6th December 2009, 06:56 PM   #4
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You fellows make me blush.

I am not an expert but I am confident this box is from West Africa most probably Ghana, but one must realise that like standard Christian iconography which travels the globe, much African iconography travels far in its sphere of influence.

Looks nice!
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Old 6th December 2009, 10:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
You fellows make me blush.

I am not an expert but I am confident this box is from West Africa most probably Ghana, but one must realise that like standard Christian iconography which travels the globe, much African iconography travels far in its sphere of influence.

Looks nice!


Hi Tim ,
thank you for your comments ...if Ghana, then Ashanti could be a possibility. Could you please explain why you think West Africa (to further my knowledge) Any ideas as to the symbology....it might help me to discover its use.
Would you know if the 'box' (excluding the lid) be cast in 'one piece' ? Thank you

Kind Regards David
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Old 7th December 2009, 08:43 AM   #6
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Looks cast in one piece and a nice casting. Fine modelling in bees wax is hard work, heat from your hands can make the surface of the wax sort of scummy and rough.

This box could well come from many cultures along the trade coast. Symbolism can be complex and vary. However in general on domestic items there is usually a simple meaning of good fortune, rather like bats on Chinese artefacts. You could see the turtle as longevity and the croc quite simply as good luck. The turtle can be long lived and wise. The crocodile in this case I suspect is used to express adaptability in life to take opportunity when it knocks. The Crocodile has the ability to live in water and land and indeed take prey when ever the opportunity arises{a little scary}. This is a most simple answer. In other areas the crocodile is also a royal/chiefly symbol which can be convey a very different twist to good fortune. There are some really good books on Akan and Ashanti amongst others gold work, which show the skilled wax work {rather pricey sadly}.
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Old 7th December 2009, 01:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
............ The crocodile in this case I suspect is used to express adaptability in life to take opportunity when it knocks. The Crocodile has the ability to live in water and land and indeed take prey when ever the opportunity arises{a little scary}. ........



Hi Tim,
thank you for the added details Interesting comment about the the crocodile's symbolism. The Ashanti often bury the box with their deceased.....containing gold/valuables....however in times of need these can be 'dug up' to benefit the family. I would assume that perhaps, this practise may be adopted by neighbouring tribes.
Also very pleased to discover that these boxes/containers were also made from wood and/or leather. The cast type were the property of the more wealthy/powerful members of the tribe.

".........The Ashanti developed remarkably diverse kuduo containers cast of copper alloys. Kuduo were used in many ways by the Ashanti. They held gold dust and other valuables, but could also be found in important political and ritual contexts. Some kuduo were buried with their owners, while others were kept in the palace shrine rooms that housed the ancestral stools of deceased state leaders. Life and the afterlife, the present and the past, were enhanced and made more meaningful by the presence of these elegant prestige vessels. ......."

" ..........The weights were used to measure out specific quantities of gold and gold dust, which was mined and panned in great quantities within the kingdom and used for trading with outsiders, for making personal adornments, and as an internal currency. The weights and their accoutrements such as boxes, spoons and balances were known as a futoo and wrapped together in cloth. They would then be put into a leather container, a wood box, or if the owner was a wealthy man, a cast-brass kuduo box. These boxes, full of gold dust, could be buried with their owners and dug up again if needed, or hidden in times of trouble. ........"

http://www.hunterian.gla.ac.uk/coll...nti/index.shtml


Kind Regards David
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Old 7th December 2009, 04:34 PM   #8
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David this picture is from, "Gold Of Africa" Timothy Garrard, prestel 1989 now a rather expensive book. As you can see the picture relates to text no.3 so now your thread is very much weapon based. It is not just the Japanese that have fancy metalwork decoration on swords?
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Old 18th December 2009, 02:53 PM   #9
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Hi David

Apologies for a late post on this topic - but I've come across an article on Asante brass casting in an old "African Arts" journal. Here are a couple of extracts you might like to see.

Regards.
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Old 19th December 2009, 02:30 PM   #10
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Hi Tim and Colin ,

thank you both for the added information, it's appreciated.

I would assume that this would be difficult to date, are there any clues in the manufacture, patina, design...that could help me give it an approximate age ?

I also wondered whether any one could PM me, if they have any idea as to value (for insurance purposes) I think I got it at a 'good price' but not being knowledgeable in this type of object I don't know for sure.

Best Regards David
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Old 19th December 2009, 07:23 PM   #11
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Default Back to swords.

David I think your box is from the first half of the 20th century. If you make a study of cast brass, gold weights, a latter style is clearly displayed in your box.

I am posting a few more pictures from the afore mentioned book. I hope that is okay with the mods and legality if not then it can always be deleted. A better close up of the croc sword ornament which is 800g of high purity gold and exquisitely modelled. Also a gold double croc decoration the handle is gold leaf gilt wood. Much new regalia was made on the return from exile of the ruler in 1924? The black and white picture is from 1888, I find the drum more interesting.
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Old 19th December 2009, 07:41 PM   #12
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Default Matching swords,

Look at the second example in this link-

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ight=consencous

Compare to this cropped picture of a painting in the afore mentioned book. The the Dutch artist Albert Eckhout painted this man from the Akan Kingdom of Fetu in 1641. The actual sword he used for his model exists in the National Museum of Denmark. There is no record of these swords being used for anything else other than state emblems.
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Old 19th December 2009, 08:26 PM   #13
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Thanks Tim,
for the addition info ..... I'm quite happy with this being dated the first half of the 20th Century, I suspected a similar time frame but it was a 'guesstimate'.

Regards David
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Old 20th December 2009, 03:50 PM   #14
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Hi David,

Sorry to be another late comer to the thread.
Thought you might want to see another smaller example of Ashanti 'gold dust' vessels.
If you remember I came to these when I bought one a while back described laughably as 'war paint pot' or some hokum.
Anyhow, pretty soon afterwards I acquired this absolute stunner, so I decided to part with the first one.
Have a look at the colouring in the recesses of the patterning. It appears to have been some kind of crude enamelling or other coloured infill. There looks like there might have been black and green too in other areas (the black might just have been under the other colours), although it seems to have degraded to the point of disintigration.
The patina is lovely, and the detail much finer than usual. I'd guess the date to be into the 19thC, but thats a guess.

Gene



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Old 20th December 2009, 06:06 PM   #15
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Hi Gene

Nice pot - however I suspect it to be of Indian origin, especially with the red pigment residue.

Regards
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Old 20th December 2009, 06:10 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Hi Gene

Nice pot - however I suspect it to be of Indian origin, especially with the red pigment residue.

Regards



Ooops! really?
Even with the decorating style, and 'hinges'?
Oh bugger! can you elaborate please bud?
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Old 20th December 2009, 06:18 PM   #17
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Basically the style & shape, the big round hinges and the pigment point to an Indian piece...

Could be wrong of course, but thats my feeling.

Regards
Colin
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Old 20th December 2009, 07:24 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Basically the style & shape, the big round hinges and the pigment point to an Indian piece...

Could be wrong of course, but thats my feeling.

Regards
Colin


Sorry David, not wishing to derail your thread.

Colin,
well, if its Indian it would fit in better with my collection so apart from feeling a bit of a douche for not realising it.... not a problem
Any idea of name or area or use?

Thanks mate
Gene

Last edited by Atlantia : 20th December 2009 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 20th December 2009, 08:21 PM   #19
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Hi Gene

I'm not an expert on Indian metalwork, but from the red residue I would make a guess that it may have been for containing pigments. Hindus use pigments, especially vermilion, to anoint both themselves and figures of deities.

Probably the V & A Museum in London could give a definitive description of its use... I don't know what Indian name it would have, but it looks a nice object, maybe 19th century or even earlier ?

Regards
Colin
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