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Fulani Bronze Anklet Currency Manilla

Fulani Bronze Anklet Currency Manilla

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Early to mid 20th century, Fulani people, Nigeria.

Fabulous cast bronze anklet with traditional U-shaped body was created using the lost wax method and elaborately designed with intertwined twisted strands and terminals incised with circle decorations. The thick design and substantial weight of this woman’s anklet gave a pleasing sway to the wearer’s step. The Fulani people is an ethnic group in Sahara, Sahel and West Africa, widely dispersed across the region. A significant proportion of the Fulani are pastoralists, and their ethnic group has the largest nomadic pastoral community in the world. The majority of the Fulani ethnic group consisted of semi-sedentary people, as well as sedentary settled farmers, scholars, artisans, merchants, and nobility. The Fulani people favoured many kinds of body ornaments, among the most traditional being bracelets and anklets in a horseshoe shape with decorative terminals. Bracelets and anklets were ideal currency that was wearable, easily portable and readily available for purchases, especially for nomadic people. 

Manillas are a form of commodity money, usually made of bronze or copper, which were used in West Africa. They were produced in large numbers in a wide range of designs, sizes, and weights. Originating before the colonial period, perhaps as the result of trade with the Portuguese Empire, Manillas continued to serve as money and decorative objects until the late 1940's and are still sometimes used as decoration. In popular culture, they are particularly associated with the Atlantic slave trade. The name manilla is said to derive from the Spanish for a "bracelet" manilla, the Portuguese for "hand-ring" (manilha), or after the Latin manus (hand) or from "monilia", plural of necklace (monile). They are usually horseshoe-shaped, with terminations that face each other and are roughly lozenge-shaped. The earliest use of manillas was in West Africa. As a means of exchange they originated in Calabar. Calabar was the chief city of the ancient southeast Nigerian coastal kingdom of that name. It was here in 1505 that a slave could be bought for 8-10 manillas, and an elephant’s tooth for one copper manilla. Africans of each region had names for each variety of manilla, probably varying locally. They valued them differently, and were very particular about the types they would accept.

Good condition. Heavy wear consistent with age and use. Beautiful polished patina. Size approx. 9,8cm x 8,0cm x 2,0cm. 

Provenance: Private collection from Morocco.

 

References and further reading:

The Teach Yourself Guide to Numismatics, C.C. Chamberlain, English Universities Press. 1963, p. 92.

The West African Manilla Currency: Research and Securing of Evidence from 1439-2019, Rolf Denk, Tredition GmbH, Hamburg, 2020.

Primitive Money in its ethnological, historical and economic aspects, Paul Einzig, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1949.

Object biographies, Manilla or Penannular Bracelet Currency, Eric Edwards, Balfour Library, Pitt Rivers Museum, January 29th, 2010. (https://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/rpr/index.php/objectbiographies/78-manilla.html)

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