Symbols of Kingship

June 7, 2012 § 9 Comments

And again about African Kings. Another object in the African galleries of the Minneapolis Institute of Art is a Nok Terra Cotta. The Nok refer to a West African culture now extinct that who once located in northern Nigeria in around 500BCE. It is from this culture that we find the earliest evidence of iron technology in West Africa. What is intriguing about the Minneapolis figure is that we seem to have a figure of a ruler displaying signs of his office. Under an arm is what appears to be a flail ( a tool used by farmers to thrash grain to loosen the kernel from the husk). and tied his arm on to opposite side is a small crook, ( used by shepherds to guide tend sheep) These symbols, like goods symbols are multi layered with meanings. The king is associated with the two important aspects of agriculture ( by the way there is an ancient rivalry between the two, think Cain and Abel) The king is related to the fertility of the land and by extension the welfare of his people. He provides them with food. The king can protect his people as a shepherd his flock. ( the crook symbol would suggest that). The king has a violent aspect as well. He can punish for wrong doing and go to war against a threat. (the flail symbol and it violent threshing is suggested here). The odd thing is that there is only one other kingdom in Africa that I know of that these symbols are associated with kingship, and that is ancient Egypt.


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