Art vs. Craft

By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Ghana; Asante peoples

Soul washer’s disk

Gold

H. 11.4 cm (4 ½”)

Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase with funds from Margaret H. Demant, 1990.19

The furniture, tools, textiles, and ornaments that are the subject of this chapter make apparent the uselessness of distinctions between art and craft, for many of these utilitarian objects have as much aesthetic presence as the sculptures and masks that have long attracted the attention of Western connoisseurs. This gold disk, decorated with patterns that have been pressed into it with a sharp tool, was called a "soul washer’s disk" because it was worn by the member of the Asante court who was responsible for maintaining the purity of the king's soul.