Exhibition opening "Akan Goldweights"
February 16, 2011, 7 pm
The Goldweights of the Akan exhibition has showcased over 700 bronze goldweights cast in miniature form, from the simplest to the more elaborately decorated and complex geometric shapes, as well as sculptural figures depicting different objects, plants, animals, people or, on the other hand, compositional scenes that include a range of motifs.
The richness of goldweight shapes that vary from pyramidal forms or the circle, seeds and different fruits, birds placed on posts, or figures of women carrying children in wrappers, with bowls on their heads, miscellaneous abstract motifs and naturalistic images – were individually or in groups the visual accessory of economic activities that took place in the Akan states between the 15th until the end of the 19th century. The goldweights were placed on one scale pan and the amount of gold used as currency that brought the scale into balance, was placed on the other pan. The weight of the goldweights corresponded to the monetary value of gold, while their form expressed the need of the individual and society for communication, at the same time expressing the artistic sensibility of both the creator of the piece and all who used them.
As material testimonies from the past, goldweights belong to the history of commercial activities focused upon the rich gold deposits located across the vast area of West Africa, from the Sahel to the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Fairy tales of gold-bearing rain, the spirit of adventure and economic interests lured a growing number of trans-Saharan caravans from the north of the continent, from the 9th century and with the 15th century, overseas fleets from European countries started heading towards Western Africa. „Records“ about mythic heroes, brave warriors, religious rituals, objects of everyday and ceremonial use, oral lore and many other aspects of Akan culture in the following centuries are to be found today as „written“ in bronze – in the rich repertoire of goldweigth shapes and motifs that represent the whole world in small.