SIGNIFICANCE OF GOLD IN SENEGAL CULTURE
From past to present, there has been a deeply rooted significance of gold in Senegal culture. The local women use gold to present themselves in society. The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art had an exhibit that proudly displays Senegal culture and Senegal’s rich history with gold. “Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women” featured over 250 works of West African jewelry. After completing decades of research in Senegal, art historian Marian Ashby Johnson gifted her findings to the Museum.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GOLD IN SENEGAL CULTURE AND FASHION
Historically, Senegalese women have used gold as a means to garner power, wealth, and prestige in society. Senegalese women would use sañse, a Wolof tribe term for “dressing up” to wear commissioned outfits and pieces of gold jewelry as a statement of their prestige, beauty, and power.
THE POWER OF GOLD
By the late 18th century, a class of Afro-European women emerged who would later come to be known as signares. Signare is a combined Portuguese and French term to describe these women who would temporarily marry European men to inherit their wealth from the gold and slave trade. Although it is complex in nature, the story of Signares highlights how women have used gold to build their self-worth and nourish generations to come. Often, these masterpieces are also used as home décor or art to infuse color and energy into their homes.
Complicated gold necklaces designed with flowers or butterflies showcase a high level of craftsmanship with tiny filigreed wires twisted into soaring tubular shapes, or twined into bracelets that seem almost too heavy to wear.
Often in a dimly lit room, a teugue creates the impressive gold pieces Senegalese women wear. With only a single light bulb and a small furnace to melt the gold, these Senegalese goldsmiths delicately craft intricately designed and uniquely-made jewelry.
Museum director Gus Casley-Hayford believes in the power of gold as a means to continue to tell people’s stories. The artworks tell deeper stories and habits of a Senegalese woman’s life. “Good as Gold '' shares the history of gold that connects Senegalese women.
SIGNIFICANCE OF GOLD IN SENEGAL CULTURE AND MODERN APPLICATIONS
Senegalese ceramicist Faty Ly operates out of her studio in Dakar. On any given workday, you can find Faty in her workspace, surrounded by sketches and photos of the women who make up her lineage. Adorned with stacks of gold bangles, Faty is inspired to incorporate the color gold into her ceramic designs.
The gold gilded Limoges porcelain is sturdy and a beautiful way to bring African design into a modern home. The collection is silk printed on a coupe shape and pure gold gilded on Limoges porcelain, world renown for its quality and translucency. The special Nguka silk prints are made in Italy. This heirloom-quality collection is beautiful for display, special occasions, or for enjoying exquisite contemporary African design tableware every day.
Consider exploring Faty Ly’s ceramics collection for inspiring contemporary African design that extends Senegal’s exploration and integration of this precious metal.