The collection: Africa

There are approximately 3000 items from Africa in the collection.


In the World Cultures gallery Africa is represented by the arts of West Africa, East and South Africa, beadwork and a collector’s case concerning Richard E. Dennett, an ivory and rubber trader in Central Africa in 1879.

The collection also includes early and modern day examples of indigo-dyed adire that was collected from Nigeria in the early 1960s. There are also fine examples of metalwork in copper and iron from different parts of the continent including looted material taken from Benin City during the punitive expedition of February 1897. There is also an assortment of Akan items from Ghana that relate to measuring gold dust such as brass weights, containers and scales. Material from East and South Africa includes rare specimens of beaded adornment, barkcloth and objects relating to the Zulu wars.

ikuyu beaded armlet called ngarawa

Kikuyu beaded armlet called ngarawa (Accession 10/2010/16) dia.80mm


The design of this armlet suggests that it was possibly made by the Kikuyu living close to the Kamba border. The single cowry is acting as a device to protect the wearer from evil. The danglers suspended on copper chains are cold cut aluminium moon-shaped terminals called tulamba.