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Senufo Bronze Anklet Boat Currency

Senufo Bronze Anklet Boat Currency

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The Senufo peoples, late 19th or early 20th century, Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa.

Superb, aged and traditional form of the Senufo bronze currency "boat" anklet was created using the lost wax method. Designed to sit around the top of the foot. Two delicately upswept bands join to form a fantastic object, with protuberances in the center of each forming a stylistic decoration. 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.

The Senufo people (also known as Siena, Senefo, Senoufo, and Syénambélé) are a West African group of people living in northern Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and the western Burkina Faso. Traditional Senufo society is animist, and they believe in a supreme being who created the world, Kolotyolo. Religion is an important aspect of Senufo culture and ties in with art. The Poro society is a secret society, guided by a female ancestral spirit known as Maleeo or Katieleo, “the Ancient Mother", comprised primarily of men that creates specialized masks used to connect with the gods, ancestors and bush spirits. Regionally, the Senufo are famous as musicians and highly talented carvers of wood sculpture, masks, and figurines. The Senufo people have specialized their art and handicraft work by subgroups, where in the art is learnt within this group, passed from one generation to the next. The art of Senufo people inspired twentieth-century European artists such as Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger.

Excellent condition. Wear consistent with age and use. Beautiful polished patina. Size approx. 13,8cm x 8,1cm x 4,2cm. 

Provenance: Swedish private collection.

References and further reading:

Senufo, Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 Jan. 2018. (

The Senufo People, Exploring Africa. (

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. (

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