An Asante proverb states, "The cobra that blocks the path is going his own way, yet people run away when they see him." According to some informants, this means that once you get a bad reputation, nobody will trust you even when you mean no harm.
The link between the above proverb and the gold weight under consideration here is an example of the "oral-visual nexus" that pervades the cultures of the various Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Proverbs are indeed an important part of many Akan cultures, and the proper use of proverbs in speech is a crucial skill in order to be considered a serious or wise person. Yet the use and interpretation of a proverb depends not just on knowing its meaning, but on its relevance and particular nuance in the context of its use as well. The problem of ascribing a singular meaning becomes confounded in the case of gold weights or other objects embodying particular proverbs. In fact, the one-on-one relationship between a weight and a proverb is rare, especially in case of single-subject weights, such as this snake (detailed scenes involving two or more objects are often easier to link unambiguously to a particular proverb).
Signed and dated in pencil, l.r.: Alechinsky 1970 Stamp in black ink in upper l. corner of recto: Timbre/1F/50c Blind stamp of seated woman (below inked stamp): Republique Francaise (?) Embossed stamp on verso, u.l.c.:
The Buddha, sheltered by the Naga king Mucalinda: a scene from the life of historical Buddha. When the Buddha-to-be sat down under a Bo tree in Bodh Gaya to meditate for a period of 49 days, a great storm arose, but his concentration was unbroken. To keep him safe from the flood and the driving rain, the Naga (serpent) king Mucalinda coiled his body to life him above the waters, and spread his cobra hood to provide shelter. Images of Buddha sheltered by Mucalinda are common in peninsular Southeast Asia, where snakes were tradiionally revered as fertility symbols.