Akan Copper Alloy Kuduo - X.0459
Origin: West Africa
Circa: 18 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 11" (27.9cm) high x 6.5" (16.5cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Akan
Medium: Copper Alloy

Kuduo were used in many ways by the Akan people and other neighboring tribes. They held gold dust, cowrie shells, and other valuables; but could also be found in important political and ritual contexts. Some kuduo were buried with their owners, while others were kept in the palace shrine rooms that housed the ancestral stools of deceased state leaders. Life and the afterlife, the present and the past, were enhanced and made more meaningful by the presence of these elegant prestige vessels.

While it may be difficult to characterize a standard type of kuduo, due primarily to their variety of functions, this stunning copper alloy example is certainly unusual. The body, including the swollen oval body resting on three spherical feet and the lid that resembles a bell, is nothing uncommon in and of itself. Looped rings have been attached on opposite sides of the body. A chord would have been inserted through these rings and lined up with the loops on the lid in order to secure the cap to the body and ensure that the contents remained safe inside. What make this vessel unique are the indiscernible glyphs that cover that body and lid. Whereas representations of humans and animals are the traditional decorative elements; here, we have a series of symbols that resemble random letters from a variety of alphabets including Greek, Roman, and Arabic. However, there appears to be no order to their placement and no words appear to be formed, as if the artist was influenced by inscriptions on other works or art from foreign cultures and sought to emulate their style. Here we have an unintelligible inscription from a language that only exists in the mind of the artist. Although we struggle to understand the meaning of these signs (if there is one), the abstract decorative qualities of these symbols can be easily appreciated by all. This stunning vessel was created to hold precious objects. However, the kuduo today is no doubt more of a treasure than anything it ever might have once contained. - (X.0459)