Wealth & Trade

Wealth & Trade

Use this guide to lead students on an exploration of the African Art and find out more about prosperous cultures in Africa!

Grade Level:
Grades 3-5
Collection:
African Art
Culture/Region:
Africa
Subject Area:
Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Visual Arts
Activity Type:
Classroom Resource, Resource Set

Wealth & Trade

Image Gallery

Ehel (Tent Stake)
Dwa (Official’s Stool)
King's Beaded Robe

Wealth & Trade

Africa is a continent rich in natural resources that gave rise to many wealthy empires. Metal, salt, and gold, as well as products such as beads and textiles, traveled many miles over vast trade routes. Use this resource to explore African Art and find out more about prosperous cultures in Africa!

Use the on-site version of this resource to guide students through the museum's African Art Galleries: Wealth & Trade Gallery Tour

Ehel (Tent Stake)

Ehel (Tent Stake)

19th-20th century , Tuareg (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, ALgeria, Libya)

Medium: wood

Accession ID: 2005.19

The Tuareg [twa-regg] people are mostly nomadic and live in North and West Africa. Tuareg caravans played a primary role in carrying goods across the Sahara Desert until the mid-20th century. They ...

The Tuareg [twa-regg] people are mostly nomadic and live in North and West Africa. Tuareg caravans played a primary role in carrying goods across the Sahara Desert until the mid-20th century. They use camels to help transport all of their goods and possessions from place to place. Tent poles, like the one featured here, are used to erect a tent and hold up its walls, as well as to hang mats, bags, and clothing.

For thousands of years, Tuareg economy revolved around trans-Saharan trade. Using five basic trade routes, Tuareg merchants were responsible for bringing goods from the great cities on the southern edge of the Sahara to the northern Mediterranean coast of Africa. From there they were distributed throughout the world. With the development of roads, much of the movement of goods and people is accomplished by trucks; however, smaller camel caravans continue to cross the Sahara.

What does it mean to be nomadic?

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Dwa (Official’s Stool)

Dwa (Official’s Stool)

19th-20th century , Akan

Medium: wood, brass

Accession ID: 2007.1

This stool is from the modern country of Ghana. Ghana has long been known for its rich and abundant resources of gold, which boosted trade and earned it the name “Gold Coast” in colonial times. ...

This stool is from the modern country of Ghana. Ghana has long been known for its rich and abundant resources of gold, which boosted trade and earned it the name “Gold Coast” in colonial times. European firearms, as well as other luxury goods, were also traded in this area. Stools like these are not for sitting but instead symbolize of leadership for the Akan [ah-kahn] people.

This stool is made from wood and is covered in brass with intricate hammered designs. The Akan people are very well known for their wise sayings or proverbs. On the seat of the stool, there are two birds. Each bird touches its tail with an egg. The egg is a symbol of the future; the tail is a symbol of the past. This image is called “Sankofa,” which means “return and get it.” It symbolizes the importance of learning from the past.

What is a symbol? What symbol would you choose to represent power?

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King's Beaded Robe

King's Beaded Robe

early 20th century , Yoruba

Medium: glass beads, string, velvet, wool, damask

Accession ID: 96.36

The Yoruba [yoroo-BUH] have created—and continue to produce—some of Africa’s most dazzling beaded objects, notably royal regalia such as crowns, necklaces, footwear, footstools, and even enti ...

The Yoruba [yoroo-BUH] have created—and continue to produce—some of Africa’s most dazzling beaded objects, notably royal regalia such as crowns, necklaces, footwear, footstools, and even entire garments.

For a long time people have believed that glass beads were not produced in sub-Saharan Africa. Instead they thought beads were only imported from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Thanks to archaeological evidence we now know that more than a thousand years ago the manufacture of red, blue, and green glass beads was an important industry in Ife (sacred city in Yorubaland). However, this King’s Robe is made of imported glass beads. Beads have for a long time been important accessories of royal regalia and valuable trade commodities.

Colors not only play an artistic role in Yoruba art, but also have special meanings. For example, many colors relate to particular Yoruba gods. Indigo blue (elu), sacred to Yemoja, the mother of waters, is associated with water and coolness and is believed to calm and soothe tension. The color white (funfun)—sacred to Obatala and Orunmila—calls to mind peacefulness and the sublime. Red (pupa) signifies hotness, danger, and vitality, and often represents Sango, the thunderstorm deity. Black (dudu) embodies the unpredictable and therefore is associated with Esu, the divine messenger (also known as a mischievous trickster)

How many different colors do you see? What do those colors mean to you?

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