Pair of earrings



Fulani peoples
Late 20th–early 21st century
more object details

General Description

Oversized earrings designed with four lobes have been worn by Fulani women for hundreds of years, both to enhance their natural beauty and to display their families' wealth. An 18th-century explorer described them as "massy and inconvenient" and "commonly as heavy as to pull down and lacerate the lobe of the ear; to avoid which, they are supported by a thong of red leather, which passes over the crown of the head from one ear to the other." Traditionally, kwottenai kanye are made by local goldsmiths by alternately heating a rod of gold over a small charcoal fire and hammering it on an anvil until the four lobed form is achieved. The lobes may be left plain or designs may be incised or stamped on the surface.

By the 1980s solid gold earrings had been replaced by gilded silver or brass, but the old method of heating and hammering metal rods into four lobed forms has not changed. Today Fulani goldsmiths customize these earrings for contemporary local and foreign patrons. This small pair exemplifies this. They were commissioned in the late 1990s for an American client whose ears were not pierced. The goldsmith fashioned a clip-on attachment for her convenience and comfort. They were crafted by a member of the Macina goldsmith family from Macina, a town known for Fulani earrings.

Adapted from

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

  • Roslyn A. Walker, DMA unpublished material, 2013.

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