Torque

CULTURE:
Yoruba peoples
DATE:
18th century
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General Description

Heavy castings like this one were used as currency in West Africa prior to the introduction of coinage. Also worn by women in certain ritual dances, torques are considered "stored wealth" because they are composed of the metal from numerous manillas (open bracelets that serves as another form of pre-coinage currency). Individuals took their amassed manillas to blacksmiths to be melted down and recast into the much larger torques. Manillas, which were introduced by foreign merchants, circulated in West Africa from the 15th to the early 20th century. Royal brasscasters in the Benin kingdom in present-day Nigeria melted down manillas obtained from the Portuguese and recast them as plaques.

The ideal form is said to be a near perfect circle with the two pointed finials meeting, as displayed in this torque.

Adapted from

Roslyn A. Walker, The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 278-279.