Gold Photograph Doran Ross
thread follows the needle.
No one goes to the house of the spider to teach it wisdom.
When the occasion arises, it calls for an appropriate
A proverb is the wisdom of all and wit of one.
Only the elephant can uproot the palm tree.
When a chief falls, it is said, “A great tree has
• Language Arts
of the distinctive features of Akan art is that images from
their environment and culture are directly related to proverbs.
This verbal/visual connection pervades the visual arts,
dance, and music. The Akan peoples, including the Asante,
use proverbs everyday and on formal occasions of every variety.
A casual "how are you doing?" might prompt the
response "no condition is permanent." This spontaneous
use of metaphoric speech in informal situations reveals
the Akan use of visually-oriented verbal images which are
typically conventionalized proverbs, in addition to being
a way of thinking and speaking. Formal occasions, by contrast,
call for a more formalized use of language, and here proverbs
play their most important role. Speech making and debate
are crucial means of communication, and eloquence is always
The ability to speak with wisdom, confidence, and conviction
is especially valued by the Akan, and best understood through
the office of okyeame, wise advisor to the Asantehene and
other chiefs. At public events the okyeame (pronounced o-cham-ee)
sits or stands next to the Asantehene for whom he acts as
chief advisor, judicial advocate, military attaché,
foreign minister, prime minister, and political trouble-shooter.
He offers prayers and toasts, is known as the authority
on local lore and customs, and serves as intermediary between
the king or chief and those who wish to talk to him. People
who wish to converse with the chief speak instead to the
linguist, who in turn speaks for them to the chief. Conversely
the king or chief does not speak directly to his subjects
or guests but speaks through the linguist who embellishes
his words with appropriate metaphors, proverbs and other
Asante value gold above all other metals, and in the past,
besides making gold jewelry, they used gold dust as money.
When a man wanted to buy something, he carried a bag containing
a little brass box of goldweights, and a scale. The goldsmiths
with all the skill and care they used in making jewelry
made the goldweights. At first the weights were made in
simple geometric shapes. Later they took the form of animals
and people, plants and insects, stools, state swords, guns
and drums. Many of the weights illustrated proverbs.
The method of casting jewelry and goldweights, the lostwax
process, is still used today in West Africa by makers of
fine metalwork. The goldsmith first models the piece of
sculpture in wax. He makes the model solid if it is a small
goldweight. For a larger sculpture he shapes the wax over
a core of clay. The finished model is painted with a thin
watery mixture of fine clay, and then coated with layers
of coarse clay to make the mold for casting. When the mold
is heated, the wax melts and runs out through a hole left
by the wax. Then molten metal is poured into the mold to
fill the space left by the wax. After the goldsmith judges
that the metal is cool and hard, he breaks open the clay,
takes out the casting, and smoothes and finishes it with
in Pride Exhibition
Cultural Symbols Project
Art and Life: University of Iowa Stanley Collection of African
In Pride Lesson Plan