Peace, Power and Prestige: Metal
Arts in Africa

March 17, 2020 November 29, 2020

Peace, Power and Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa explores the roles of metal objects in sustaining and enhancing life in African communities, while demonstrating the aesthetic and expressive power of metal arts. For millennia, African metalsmiths have drawn upon the inherent power and beauty of metal to create dazzling and enduring objects including:

  • Body adornment and currency items for proclaiming wealth and social status.
  • Staffs, scepters, weaponry and other regalia as emblems of leadership and authority.
  • Amulets and sacred objects used in spiritual mediation.


The exhibition includes a diverse range of iron, brass, bronze, gold, copper, silver and alloyed works created by artists in Sub-Saharan Africa between the 9th and 21st centuries. The selected objects are from the Harn Museum of Art collection and private collections, most notably the Drs. John and Nicole Dintenfass collection.

Highlights in the exhibition include:

  • Iron staffs and figures of the Mande smiths of Mali.
  • Bronze and iron chiefly regalia from the Edo people of Nigeria.
  • Brass and iron ceremonial swords, brass adorned stools and goldweights, and personal adornment signifying prestige and leadership for the Akan people of Ghana.
  • Brass and copper reliquary guardian figure of the Kota of Gabon.
  • Cuprous currencies, ceremonial staffs and weaponry from Congo.
  • Iron and bronze shrine objects of the Dogon people of Mali.
  • Objects adorned with fine wirework from South Africa.
  • Ogboni society brass staffs, figures, and iron divination and healing staffs from the Yoruba people of Nigeria.
  • Ethiopian Christian Orthodox crosses.
  • Somali bridal silver jewelry.
  • Copper alloy sacred objects of Tusian, Gan and Lobi peoples of Burkina Faso.


The book "Peace, Power and Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa" (Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art / University Press of Florida, March 2020) is edited by Harn Curator of African Art, Susan Cooksey, and includes essays by: Jodi Berman, Elisabeth Rios-Brooks, Bolaji Campbell, Susan Cooksey, Jean-Baptiste Coulibaly, Kate Ezra, Rebecca Fenton, Jacopo Gnisci, Babatunde Lawal, Amanda Maples, Patrick McNaughton, Nicholas Nikis, Adjanie Ofunniyin, Philip Peek, Constantine Petridis, Robin Poynor and Raymond Silverman.


Peace, Power and Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa is made possible with support from the UF Office of the Provost, Dr. Richard H. Davis and Mrs. Jeanne G. Davis, the C. Frederick and Aase B. Thompson Foundation, the UF Office of Research, Drs. David and Rebecca Sammons, the UF International Center, the Margaret J. Early Endowment, Visit Gainesville Alachua County, the Harn Anniversary Fund, Marcia Isaacson, Roy Hunt, Robin and Donna Poynor, UF Center for African Studies, Kenneth and Laura Berns, and retired Lt. Col. David A. Waller, with additional support from the Harn Program Endowment, the Harn Annual fund and a group of generous donors.


New Acquisition for Exhibition

Gold Jewelry Ensemble
Harn Museum of Art Curator of African Art Susan Cooksey discusses a newly acquired gold ensemble.


Bell Research


Listening to and sharing music is one way to stay connected and evoke positive memories during social distancing.
Some musical memories are uniquely understood by the Gainesville community. The bronze bells of the carillon in University of Florida's Century Tower play a four-phrase melody on the quarter hours and can be heard well past campus.
Across the Atlantic, these bells with human faces from Nigeria also played an important role in shaping social interactions. Used in ritual performance, they connected past ancestors with present communities to create inter-generational links. What songs bring together your friends and family over the internet? Which bell do you find most intriguing?
For more about the Carillon in Century Tower, visit or

– Written by Elisabeth Rios-Brooks, Research & Interpretive Strategies #HarnIntern and 3rd year UF Anthropology & International Studies-Africa major in UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

These works are on view in Peace, Power and Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa.
images: Cross River artist, Nigeria “Anthropomorphic Bell,” 15th-16th century, bronze or other copper alloy; Yoruba artist, Nigeria “Figurated Ògbóni/Òsùgbó Society Bell (òmò),” 19th-20th century, brass or bronze; Ijebu artist, Bell, 17th-18th century, brass; Yoruba artist, “Figurated Ògbóni/Òsùgbó Bell (òmò),” 19th century, brass or bronze. All four works are from the collection of Drs. Nicole and John Dintenfass, photography by Vincent Girier Dufournier





Gallery Guide



Image credits
Slide 1
Left: Kota-Obamba or Mindumu artist, Gabon, Reliquary guardian figure (mbulu ngulu), 19th century, brass, copper, wood, collection of Drs. Nicole and John Dintenfass, photograph by Vincent Girier Dufournier
Right: Unknown artist, Somalia, Porte Qur’an necklace (Xirsi), 18th  19th century, silver, gift of the Katheryne and John Loughran Foundation for Cultural Understanding, photograph by Randy Batista
Slide 2
Left: Gan artist, Burkina Faso, Funerary bracelet (bĩgè sĩmba), 19th century, copper alloy, collection of Drs. Nicole and John Dintenfass, photograph by Vincent Girier Dufournier
Right: Bini or Edo artist, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria, Bracelet, 18th  19th century, bronze, collection of Drs. Nicole and John Dintenfass, photograph by Vincent Girier Dufournier
Slide 3
Left: Yoruba artist, Nigeria, Paired Male/female Edan Ògbóni/Òsùgbó figures, 19th century, iron, brass/bronze, collection of Drs. Nicole and John Dintenfass, photograph by Vincent Girier Dufournier
Middle: Ethiopian artist?, Ethiopia, Processional Cross, 15th 16th century, brass, bronze copper rivets and shaft, solder, partial gift of Richard Faletti and Museum purchase, funds provided by the Caroline Julier and James G. Richardson Acquisition Endowment, Michael A. Singer, and the David A. Cofrin Art Acquisition Endowment, photograph by Randy Batista
 Right: Unknown artists, Lower Niger Region, Bell with Human Head, pre-15th century, bronze, collection of Drs. Nicole and John Dintenfass, photograph by Vincent Girier Dufournier