The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Akan Brass Casting

by Raymond Silverman
University of Michigan

Pouring a libation on an ancient Egyptian vessel, Nsoko, Ghana. Photo by Raymond Silverman.   

It is of little consequence that the basin is in a poor state of repair for it no longer functions as a container for products of the material world. The basin is perceived by the people of Nsoko as having supernatural powers that can assist the town in times of need. It is said that it is particularly effective during periods of drought. Here, Kwasi Duro, the custodian for Ayaa Kenten in 1980, is pouring a libation and reciting a prayer to the spirit of the vessel. The foliage that has grown up around the vessel is a particular type of tree that is often used to mark sacred spots in Akan communities. [Postscript: The original version of this essay was written in 1997, based on research dating from the early 1980s. In 2001, the author returned to Nsoko and learned that Ayaa Kenten had been stolen a few months earlier. The theft of this important historical object is a tragedy that speaks to a significant challenge facing Ghana—the preservation of country’s cultural patrimony.]