Ghana; Akan, Asante
Brass, pigment; H. 6 7/8 in. (17.46 cm)
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey S. Hammer, in memory of Dr. Milton Gross, 1981 (1981.431.14)
Ornate, cast brass vessels known as kuduo were the possessions of kings and courtiers in the Akan kingdoms. Gold dust and nuggets were kept in kuduo, as were other items of personal value and significance. As receptacles for their owners' kra, or life force, they were prominent features of ceremonies designed to honor and protect that individual. At the time of his death, a person's kuduo was filled with gold and other offerings and included in an assembly of items left at the burial site.
The elaborate form and complex iconography of this kuduo reveal the broad range of aesthetic traditions from which the Akan peoples have drawn to create their courtly arts. Goods from Europe and North Africa, received in exchange for Akan gold, textiles, and slaves, included vessels that may have partly inspired the design of this and other kuduo. The repeating bands of geometric patterns incised into the surface, as well as the elegantly flaring foot, body, and handle, may reflect Islamic influences. A latch mechanism on the exterior reflects the value of the materials kept within and alludes to the vessel's symbolic function of keeping its owner's kra secure.