Considerable existing evidence substantiates the presence of iron in some parts of Northern Africa since biblical times. However, beginning in the 17th century, metal work, particularly iron, began to proliferate in Sub-Saharan Africa and quickly evolved into a desired precious trade commodity. Wide-spread accepted value gradually became measured through the standardization of metal items rather than coinage. From the 18th to the early 20th century, metal objects were used for trade in western and central Africa
Most forms were developed from traditional metal objects that were already in use such as weapons, tools, bracelets, or anklets. While some continued to be functional for work or decorative purposes, most evolved into “pure” currency, deliberately unusable except as objects recognized, prized and accepted widely for payment or tribute.
Currencies might be have used for major purchases (of land or animals) or to signify a transfer of wealth at major events, such as births, coming of age ceremoies, marriages, or even to demonstrate the accumulated wealth and prestige of a departed loved one at a funeral.
In Hard Currency these objects are acknowledged for their inherent genius, craftsmanship and beauty. Most cases are mounted for display along side the gallery’s collection of African textiles.
William Siegal Gallery Web Site