Iron currency, 1900-1950

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Ironexpand_more

Gift of funds from Beverly Grossmanexpand_more  2019.44.8

This elegant iron comes from Gabon, where the Kwele peoples used it as currency, especially to compensate the bride’s family in marriage transactions. Interestingly, the two oval appendages could be taken off as single pieces and spent as a fraction of the entire object. The design of this currency appears to be inspired by the European ship’s anchor. Beginning in the late 1400s, first the Portuguese, then the Dutch, French, Spanish, and English landed on Gabon’s shores to buy ivory, hardwoods, and, increasingly, enslaved people. With their seemingly endless supplies of cloth, firearms, and alcoholic beverages, these ships were perceived as imbued with power, wealth, and prestige. One can imagine that anchors carried special associations that made them fit to be adapted to local currency.

Details
Title
Iron currency
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2019.44.8
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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