Bell anklets

Dagaaba people, Nandom, Ghana, 1930s

Collected and purchased from Anna Craven in 1965; 1965.5.53 BCollected and purchased from Anna Craven in 1965; 1965.5.53 BThese ankle ornaments were made in the 1930s and were used by the Dagaaba (Dagari), an ethnic group of Ghana and Burkino Faso in West Africa. Known locally as gbee-bugle, they are cast from brass and feature several hollow pellets decorated with spirals and containing small cow bells. They were presented to the chief's brother's wife as a gift and she would have worn them from dancing. However, the women also sometimes put them on their children as a safety device, so the noise would alert them to the children's whereabouts.

Among the Dagaaba, men and women have clearly defined roles and lead quite separate lives in the community. They even dance and make music separately. Women's music is based mainly around singing and dancing rather than instruments with the exception of a drum (today often substiruted by a plastic tank) and cow bells. These are either incorporated singly into ankle ornaments like this or sewn en masse into a leather belt known as a bugiloo. The bugiloo is so heavy and tiring to play that the women have to take turns.

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