via The Boston Globe:
All that glitters
An MFA exhibit shows the royal adornments and regal craftsmanship of a once-powerful kingdom
By Cate McQuaid
November 11, 2005
''West African Gold," which features just over 100 examples of royal appurtenances, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries and mostly from the Asante kingdom, comes to the MFA from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. That's just a fraction of the collection amassed by businessman Alfred C. Glassell, Jr., which totals more than 900 objects.
The MFA version, tailored down from a traveling show of 130 objects to fit the Loring Gallery, focuses on royal dress and adornment -- a practical decision that omits a crucial symbol of Ghanaian kingship: the golden stool. The first golden stool was said to have descended from the heavens in the early 18th century. The kings do not sit on them, but when a ruler is coronated, a golden stool is ritually touched to his buttocks. When the Asante king was here last week, he bestowed one on MFA director Malcolm Rogers.
Also missing is a dose of historical context. The catalog and wall text barely touch on what part the gold market in West Africa played in the slave trade, and to what extent Akan leaders were involved in it. ''They were middlemen," Christraud Geary, the MFA's curator of African and Oceanic Art, says in an interview. ''Ghanaians acknowledge their role in the slave trade. It's a tragic part of their history." [read on...]