Lidded Vessel (Kuduo)

19th–20th century
H. 6 11/16 x W. 5 1/2 x D. 6 1/2 in. (17 x 14 x 16.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964
Accession Number:
1978.412.384a, b
Not on view
Displaying a vibrant combination of geometric and figurative imagery, this brass kuduo was the treasured possession of a king or courtier from an Akan kingdom. Early kuduo from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries take forms that suggest a North African inspiration, possibly a result of the region's participation in the trans-Saharan gold trade. Later vessels like this example often incorporate openwork bases and feature figurative compositions on their lids. Here, a leopard prepares to eat a pig and chicken, perhaps in reference to the dominant position of the kuduo's owner within society.

Kuduo were created to store valuable possessions such as gold dust, and served the symbolic purpose of safeguarding their owners' kra, or life force. They played an important role in ceremonies intended to maintain the spiritual well-being of those who owned them. At life's end, kuduo were left at their owners' burial sites along with other personal possessions. If the kuduo belonged to a paramount chief, it would accompany his ceremonially blackened stool in a special room devoted to his spirit and memory. The latch mechanism typically displayed on the sides of such vessels refer to their role in retaining and protecting the souls of their owners.
Sir Cecil Armitage, Ghana, until (d.)1933; Maurice S. Cockin, London, 1933– (d.)1960; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1964; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978

Graffenried, Charlotte V. Akan Goldweights in the Berne Historical Museum. Bern: Benteli Verlag, 1990.