Linguist staff (okyeame poma)

MAKER:
Artist

Unknown

CULTURE:
Asante peoples
DATE:
First half of 20th century
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General Description

The finial on this linguist staff depicts a man climbing a tree with help from another man. The image refers to an Asante proverb that states, “One who climbs a good tree always gets a push.” The proverb suggests that if a chief’s intentions are good and fair, he will have the support of his people. A ruler owns several linguist staffs and displays the one that best visualizes the message he wishes to convey to his people at a particular time.

For centuries, linguists have served Asante kings and chiefs not only as translators but also as their counselors, ambassadors, political troubleshooters, military attachés, and historians. The linguist staff is their official symbol.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.