Unidentified artist, Dakar, Senegal
Late 20th century
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dr. Marian Ashby Johnson, 2012-18-192
Wolof or Tukulor artist, Dakar, Senegal
Gold-plated silver alloy
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dr. Marian Ashby Johnson, 2012-18-125, 2012-18-126
Over the past two decades, a dramatic increase in gold’s value from $316.60 per ounce in 2000 to $1,896.50 per ounce in 2011 has sparked a gold mining boom in Africa, with several new mining and exploration companies in Senegal as well as many other West African nations. Gold deposits in Kédougou, a region bordering Mali and Guinea, have attracted national and international interest, as well as a number of migrant small-scale, or “artisanal,” miners. But gold mining is not without its problems. Gold has been mined artisanally in Senegal for thousands of years as a supplement to agricultural livelihood during the dry season. It is these local miners and their discoveries that fall prey to large-scale gold companies and accompanying laws barring such livelihoods—activities that drew the attention of these companies in the first place.
Wolof artist, Dakar, Senegal
Bracelet with twisted overlay (torsade)
Mid- to late 20th century
Gold-plated copper alloy
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Dr. Marian Ashby Johnson, 2012-18-147
Bracelets and earrings of twisted gold are the most simple and plentiful forms of jewelry found in Senegal. And yet, there is a tremendous variety born of simplicity. Many Senegalese jewelers require their female clients’ presence while twisting and finishing a bracelet because a woman’s individual preference determines when the jeweler has twisted enough—thus, making the twist a matter of taste and dual creation. The gold content also has a bearing on the twist; the tighter the twists, the heavier and thicker the bracelet. Heavier bracelets are reserved for special occasions because they demand more of a jeweler’s time and indicate a high level of leisure and opulence. This bracelet is extremely heavy, with a solid core construction.