May 1 - 31, 2022
LIBRARY UPSTAIRS GALLERY
Image: Augustina Adwoa Afriyie Mensah (Takoradi, Ghana), Wall Piece, 2020. Copper. Artwork and photo courtesy of the Accra Arts Centre (Kumasi, Ghana) and the Centre for National Culture (Takoradi, Ghana).
This exhibition features a beautiful selection of metal objects exploring the culture and craftmanship of Ghana. These works offer an authentic glimpse into the tools and jewels of Ghanaian life and culture.
The Republic of Ghana has been inhabited by various states and kingdoms throughout history. These include the Bono State, the Kingdom of Dagbon, and the Kingdom of Asante. Ghana, formerly known as the “Gold Coast,” was the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade - first in gold, later in enslaved individuals. Ghana was also the first black African nation to achieve independence from a colonial power (Britain). Today, it consists of six major ethnic groups: the Akan, Ewe, Mole-Dagbani, Guan, Gurma, and Ga-Adangbe.
The Asante (Ashanti) Empire occupied what is now southern Ghana in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was founded by the Akan people, who migrated to Ghana from the Sahel and Sahara. The Asante still exist today as a sub-national traditional state of Ghana with Kumasi as its capital. It is renowned for its history of creating elaborate jewelry, and members still wear gold, bronze, and beads in special ceremonies today. The Asante encouraged the production of gold jewelry because they believed it had supernatural abilities and spiritual power. They used objects made from gold to protect the power of the empire and safeguard the spiritual travels of the deceased.
Ghana’s history shaped its use of jewelry for symbolic and ceremonial purposes, and jewelry still serves an important role in Ghanaian culture today. Individuals use jewelry as part of both traditional and modern dress, with details that vary according to a person’s gender, generation, and status, as well as the occasion. This exhibit features both Asante adornment and metalwork from contemporary Ghanaian artists.
Researched by Joana Mansa Otoo and Martin Odio, staff from the National Commission on Culture (Accra, Ghana)
This exhibit was made possible by the 2022 Memphis in May International Festival in collaboration with the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB) in Accra, Ghana.
EXHIBITION & PROGRAMMING SUPPORT
Hyde Family Foundation
Windgate Charitable Foundation
Tennessee Arts Commission