By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

MaliBamana peoples

Staff finial

Early-mid 19th century


H x W x D: 24.1 x 5.1 x 18.1 cm (9 1/2 x 2 x 7 1/8 in.)

Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution in 1966


Photograph by Franko Khoury

National Museum of African Art

Smithsonian Institution

Royal emblems often derive their forms from tools, weapons, or utilitarian objects. Yet, they acquire new meanings and uses and often no longer serve the original purposes for which they were made. Spears, staffs, knives, axes, adzes, and flywhisks are among the objects found in royal treasuries throughout Africa where they serve to signal rank and wealth, as well as spiritual, moral, and political authority.