This beautifully-constructed brass vessel was made by the Ashante (or Asanti), from modern-day Ghana. It is shaped as a pedestal vessel, with a base section comprises numerous vertical strips of metal joining the base ring to the cup-shaped body. The sides are vertical, capped by a flat-topped lid that overlaps the top of the body to provide a tight fit. The lid is attached to the body with a simple hinge, and adorned with a standing figure of a porcupine. The lid can be further secured by the strap-and-hoop locking arrangement on the front of the piece. The metal bears extensive signs of usage. Condition is excellent.
The Ashanti/Asante are one of the many tribes that make up the Akan polity, which all share general cultural trends while maintaining separate tribal identities. Their society is highly ritualised, with numerous gods under a main deity. Government is under leaders called Asantahenes, and a host of minor chiefs. The Asante are particularly well known for their work in wood, ivory and – especially –metal.
This vessel is known as a “kuduo”, which is cast using the lost wax process, and not to be confused with sheet-brass “forowa” vessels (which are used for containing food and fat, among other substances). Their use seems to have been variable, but they are always associated with elite personages within Asante society. Recorded uses include expensive items such as gold dust, gold weights and pearls, while other sources cite their use in religious ceremonies. They are very variable in terms of design, with an assortment of zoomorphic, anthropomorphic and geometric motifs which are assumed to have relevance for the different subgroups which produced them.
This is an attractive and even usable piece of African art, and a beautiful addition to any collection or sophisticated domestic setting.
Arthur, G. and Rowe, R. 1999-2001. Akan Metal Casting. Downloaded from http://www.marshall.edu/akanart/abrammoo.html
Bacquart, J-B. 2000. The Tribal Arts of Africa: Surveying Africa’s Artistic Heritage. Thames and Hudson, London.
T. Garrard, 1989. 'Gold of Africa'. Prestel-Verlag Publishing, Munich.