THE Institute of African Studies of the University of Ghana on Thursday opened an exhibition of more than 1,200 brass works used as weights for the gold trade in the Gold Coast.
The brass gold weights were bought from a German collector, Dieter Rottger, by the late Gyasehene of Akuapeman, Nana Wereko Ampem II, and subsequently donated to the university in March 2005, few months to his death, to serve educational and tourism purposes.
The exhibition, dubbed "Kuduo — the Akan Art of Brass Casting", begins in a chronological manner with the display of brass gold weighing items, followed by the various groups of brass work and then explains the various processes of brass casting.
Kuduo is a cast brass container in which precious items such as gold dust and nuggets are kept. It is also used in other various contexts as prestigious container for other valuables as well as at important traditional ceremonies like bragoro (initiation of young girls into adulthood).
The brass works are made in the designs of musical instruments, farming tools, animals, military equipment, cooking utensils, foot wear and chief regalia, among other things.
Further, a 32-minute documentary and a brochure on the donated brass, its history and the process of production, were also launched by the institute to complement the exhibition.
The documentary was shot in Kroforom, Kumasi, where the art of brass work is believed to have emerged from and employs interview with some of the casters who inherited it from their forefathers.
The director of the institute, Professor Takyiwaa Manuh, said that since the institute took delivery of the items from the late Nana Ampem II, who was also the Chancellor of the university, it has worked hard to exhibit the collection for the education and enjoyment of the school community and the public.
She expressed gratitude to the late chancellor for his foresight to donate such collection to the institute, especially in the wake of the acute limited funding for art and cultural related activities.
Prof.Manuh said that brass weights which were used in business transactions has now evolved from weights into contemporary utilitarian objects. "Some are designed and cast as coat hangers, drawer handles, candle stick holders and several more."
She urged all to visit the exhibition which is at the building of the Institute of African Studies to see the objects which have been preserved and communicated through the array of proverbial and other cast brass works.
The Chairman of the National Commission on Culture, Professor, George Hagan, said the exhibition would enable Ghanaians to appreciate the importance of the nation’s artistic heritage and help retrieve "whatever we have lost through centuries of pillage and theft."
He urged all to see the national gallery of African art built to collect, protect and exhibit traditional and contemporary creations as a necessity and not a luxury, since that that would help to retrieve the lost heritage.
The project was sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the ICT Directorate of the University of Ghana.
The exhibition continues until further notice.