African tribal jewelry are essential accessories of the African way of dressing
African tribal jewelry has always been and is still worn by men and women of the various tribes. It is a very important part of their culture
and way of dressing
Various types of materials were used by different tribes in different regions of Africa. In West Africa brass was widely used. Among the Akan people, gold was their metal of choice. Copper was also widely used in other regions.
The Senufo tribe of the Ivory Coast made ankle bracelets shaped like boats. These were worn by men, women and even infants. However, being that most of the men were farmers, the bracelets were less popular among them because they hampered their movements when farming.
The Dan and We people of West Africa wore bracelets with little bells attached to them. These bells were usually decorated and were used for dancing.
Other forms of African tribal jewelry are the gold earrings worn by married Fulani women from Mali. These earrings were and still are considered works of art in their own right. The goldsmiths who made them would beat a single stick of gold into the shape of large curved, crescent-shaped wings.
Today, the pieces of African tribal jewelry are much more luxurious and bigger than before. The king of the Ashanti people and rulers of other kingdoms wear extravagantly designed jewelry all the time. Various feasts, especially the feast of the yam in particular, become showcases of wealth by the amount of jewelry that is worn. When a king dies, young women perform ritual dances at the funeral wearing lots and lots of gold tribal jewelry.
Among the Nuer and Shilluk tribes of Sudan, Ivory was used to make remarkable pieces of jewelry. However no one appreciated Ivory more than the Dinka tribe of Kenya. The larger the size of the bracelets worn by a man, the wealthier he was and also more feared in battle. Even when an Ivory bracelet breaks, the pieces were re-carved into other forms of jewelry like rings or earrings.
All throughout the continent of Africa, tribal jewelry was not only used as a social indicator for the powerful and wealthy, it also showcased the diversity of the people and the skills of the various craftsmen, goldsmiths, carvers and jewelry makers of Africa.
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