1080 x 722 Akan Leadership Arts, Page 19 - Art & Life in Africa - The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art

Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Sword-bearer, Akuropon, Akuapem, Ghana, 1976. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

This photograph was taken at the annual Odwira (Yam Festival) of Akuapem state. The sword features a gold-leafed hilt carved by Kojo Bonsu and represents a chief holding a sword, musket, and stool, all symbols of royal authority. Hanging from the sword bearers' neck is a circular, repoussé gold pendant called akrafokonmu (a “soul washer’s badge”). Although usually identified with the official responsible for purifying the chief’s soul, these ornaments, sometimes cast or gold-leafed, are also worn by chiefs and female representatives of his matrilineage. In addition, they are also found attached to the center of the seat of royal stools. All of these contexts are intricately linked to the maintenance of chieftaincy and the royal family.