Ashanti Gold Weights
The MAMA Collection holds an outstanding collection of Asante and Fante gold weights (mrammuo) used in the pre-colonial gold trade of West Africa.
Howard Daniel, an Australian who served with the United Nations Economic Commission in Africa, donated the collection to the Albury Art Gallery in the 1990s.
In 1067, Al-Bakri, the famous Arab geographer, wrote of ancient Ghana: 'The nuggets found in all the mines of his country are reserved for the king, only this gold dust being left for the people.' The custom persisted in the Asante and Fante states of West Africa into the 19th century. It was gold that led the Portuguese to build the trading fortress of Elmina ['the mine'] in 1482 on the coast of modern Ghana.
Scales (n'senia) were used to weigh gold dust, but there was no regulated set of weights. The gold dust was scooped onto one pan with a copper spoon (n'sawa) while in the other was a brass weight (abrammuo). Bargaining decided which weight was to be used, the buyer wanted a heavier weight to get more gold, while the seller argued for a lighter weight. Each side tried to win support from bystanders for their weight. The geometric weights tend to be the older style; in the 19th century they were supplemented by figurative weights featuring animals and even little tableau scenes.