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Date: Late 19th to early 20th century
Medium: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H x W x D: 16 x 10.5 x 10 cm (6 5/16 x 4 1/8 x 3 15/16 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Gray
Geography: Akwa region, Nigeria
Object Number: 2013-16-2.2
Search Terms:
Female use
geometric motif
Exhibited: African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection

Prior to 1920, Igbo women wore large metal armlets and anklets. Material and size indicated great prestige, wealth, and exemption from physical labor. In the 1940s, male masked dancers portraying young women wearing brass plate anklets were documented in the field by K.C. Murray (first director of the Nigerian Antiquities Service); however his photographs of actual women show ivory jewelry. Although the meaning of the geometric punch designs on Igbo brass armlets and anklets is not known, the designs are similar to designs considered symbolic and used in body painting, appliqué mask costumes, and wooden doors. These particular armlets are distinguished by the inclusion of panels of standing male figures. They are holding iron staffs that can only be owned by title holders, men who have achieved status in Igbo society (see Cole and Aniakor,1984, pp.5, 52, 66, 67).

One of a pair of copper alloy sheet metal cylindrical armlet (see 2013-16.2.1). Horizontal lines and panels of semi circles, stylized standing figures.

James Foulhaber, Washington, D.C., collected in Nigeria -- to 1970

Harold Gray, Washington, D.C., 1970 to 2013

African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 2013-ongoing (installed March 13, 2018)

Robbins, Warren and Nancy Nooter. 1989. African Art in American Collections. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 128, no. 213.

Sotheby's New York: Thursday, May 16, 2013 [Lot 00109], African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art

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