Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Abosodee (sword ornament), Nsuta, AsanteGhana, 1976. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

This traditional object could easily be dismissed as an acculturated artifact that substitutes a European form for an African one. But it is not as simple as that. Prestige containers do often provide easy substitutes for one another in many cultures. The form of the container, however, does not necessarily diminish the function of the object or, of course, its contents. This “sugar bowl” sword ornament is a modern cipher for a 300-year-old ceramic tradition identified as a abusua kuruwa (clan pot). These are traditionally used to receive offerings and sacrifices to the ancestors and in support of the future success of the family. Typically found in ancestral stool rooms, the ceramic models for this ornament are also found near royal graves at a spot called “place of the pots” where they again receive offerings and sacrifices.