These are Ashanti gold powder weights, known in their place of origin as abrammuo; they were made using the lost-wax method in modern Ghana. These objects were of great value as any successful merchant needed a bag of up to around 80 weights in order to be able to conduct good business. The weights are commonly found in anthropomorphic and geometric forms, and can be modelled off of objects of power (such as the chief’s slippers or swords). As proverbs held a very prominent role in the Ashanti culture, weights often had proverbial meanings attached to them. This gives them a really interesting double value, the material value of the gold and the moral values of the proverbs. For this course I felt like the moral attachment of the proverbs has more for me to explore and work with.
ADD caption of the museum
The research process started with collecting as much information on as many aspects as you can find; as a group we all tried to find what we could and compile it for every object. This was the base for my research, as each of my peers adopted a specific angle to look into, for example its function, historic value or material properties. I myself explored the aesthetic qualities of our objects. This lens meant that my way of looking at the objects had a specific angle. In week 3 we had a guest lecturer, Yassine Salihine, who in combination with the article by Tricia Wang, 'Why Big Data Needs Thick Data' introduced methods of gathering and processing data. Specifically in a way which allows us to further our thought.
Why Big Data Needs Thick Data
Yassine took us through several thought exercises, which work on expanding your thoughts and then pushes you to raise new questions about your project. This process of associating and dissociating concepts allows you to ask questions and visualise data in a way where you gain an awareness of your viewpoint and how that defines what you do with your knowledge.
For example by asking the classic [journalistic,ed.] who, what, why, when, where and how questions in a mind map. These questions open up a lot of directions, which a researcher can then choose to explore. For example, on the left is an inclusion of my notes which shows the questions I asked, and which of those caught my interest and I wanted to explore further.
The aspect of the original artefact that really sparked something in me is the fact that they are attached to proverbs. These proverbs pass on ancestral knowledge advice or values. I have noticed a focus on the value of community conveyed through proverbs when researching proverbs.
Specifically the depiction of the bird has many possibly related proverbs. There are about 7000 proverbs among the Akan. The attachment of a proverb to a weight was up to the owner of the weight, they could associate a dozen proverbs to one weight or none at all.
Their function as a measure of value has been lost over time, since gold powder no longer is the base of the economy and electric scales are easily available. For this reason I want to shift its function, as opposed to having a functional value they focus on conveying the symbolic aspect of the weights. As the originals were once utilised in the trade of salt and kola beans the replicas will convey the proverbial attachments in a direct way.
[Additional project information missing, ed.]