Goldweights are small objects cast from brass used to weigh out quantities of gold and gold dust. They are cast using a lost-wax casting technique, wherein wax is sculpted into the desired shape and a mold is pressed around the wax model. Then, the mold is heated and the wax drained out, leaving a void in the shape of the original wax model. Liquid brass is poured into the mold and allowed to set before the caster cracks the mold open and retrieves the finished goldweight.
The Akan gold fields were an important source of West African gold from antiquity through the 20th century. Gold was traded on a global scale through both the trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic trades. The use of gold in long-distance exchange was facilitated by the use of standardized weight measurements. Goldweights, based on divisions of the Islamic ounce, were widely employed throughout the Akan area to measure the quantity and value of gold.
Akan goldweights take many shapes. Different sized goldweights measure different amounts and values of gold dust. Goldweights also vary by their aesthetic attributes. Geometric designs are common and are found in the earliest archaeological contexts. Later goldweights take many figurative forms, often linked to proverbs, jokes, and poems. Still other goldweights duplicate adrinka, a system of visual symbols used in cloth decoration.
This is a crystal inkwell with a silver-plated cap. The bottle has a cylinder shape with vertical fluting. The round cap has hammered designs on top and a beading pattern around the edge.
As with most objects of daily use, inkwells could be modest and utilitarian or more fanciful, the latter employing lavish use of precious materials to reflect and enhance the status of the possessor. Inkwells in the UMMA collections demonstrate a rich variety of materials, including silver, crystal, ceramic, and metal. Some pre-date the emergence of the fountain pen, and many mark the transition from a quill or nib pen to the convenience of the pocket pen commonly found today. Inkwells are avidly collected by those who value the artistry that went into the creation of a beautiful object for everyday life
Covered ceramic jar with brilliantly colored Thai-inspired overglaze enamel painting in floral patterns. The lid mimics the spires of Thai Buddhist architecture, rising from the gentle curve of the lower portion of the lid and alternating between solid bands of green, and multicolored floral patterns. The green covers what would be the underside of each of the colorful three tiers of "roof" segments, culminating in what appears to be a red and gold lotus bud at the top of the lid.
Bencharong ware ceramic jar for food offering, flowers, or incense. Made in China for the export market with a lid that that mimics the spires of Thai Buddhist architecture. These Thai shapes and patterns were produced by Chinese artisans using model books supplied by the Thai.
Covered ceramic jar with brilliantly colored overglaze enamel painting in repreating floral patterns. A small base curves into a deep, wide bowl with a flaring mouth, in which the lid rests. The lid can be turned upside down to provide a shallow bowl, the base of which (or topmost portion of the lid) is encircled by gold and green bands.
Bencharong ware ceramic jars for food offering, flowers, or incense. Made in China for the export market.
A wooden staff, covered with beads in solid colors (red, blue, green and orange) outlined in black against a background of white beads, with a sideways M pattern in the middle of the shaft on either side. A stylized head of open beadwork tops the staff, followed by a tight-fitting necklace-like band with a clasp in orange and green and a white band, above solid red and blue rings.
The colors and design of the staff are the same as those seen on much of the beadwork and murals made by Ndebele women of the Transvaal region in Southern Africa, with solid colors outlined in black, organized in geometric motifs that are arranged symmetrically. At the turn of the 19th century, Ndebele women turned to the art of beadwork as a way to assert their ethnic identity in the face of forced displacement and oppression by the South African government. Since the 1970s, a new policy of forced displacements of Ndebele people has led to a great decline in the production of beadwork. Previously, beaded staffs were danced at weddings and also appeared at initiation ceremonies. The red and blue rings near the top of this particular staff are miniature versions of jewelry known as "cholwane" that women wear on their limbs and as neckrings.
This black terracotta is broken at the waste and depicts a simple body decorated with globs of clay decorated with punch-marked decorations. The face is modeled a bit more realistically with wide-open eyes and a full mouth. The front of her hair is in a series of rounded ball-like curls and a circular starburst decoration is at the top. The other oval globs frame the face of the goddess and cascade down what is left of her body.
Worship of a mother goddess was widespread across northern India as far back as the third millennium BCE, during the age of the Indus Valley Civilization. Throughout the centuries, village women have created their own votive figures from clay, an inexpensive material that was always available. Small images were made entirely by hand or, as in this case, with the aid of a mold. Bits of clay were then appliquéd to the surface and decorated with punched patterns for a very pleasing effect. This mother goddess is the oldest object in the exhibition.