Work of Art: Counselor's Staff with Leopard Finial (Okyeame Poma)
Akan Peoples
Côte d’Ivoire
Counselor's Staff with Leopard Finial (Okyeame Poma)
20th Century
Wood, gold leaf, and cloth
53 1/2 x 5 3/4 x 2 1/4 in. (135.9 x 14.6 x 5.7 cm)
Purchased with funds from Elizabeth B. Craven

Among the Akan people of Ivory Coast, a man observed carrying a staff like this would be recognized as counselor to a chief. It was the primary emblem of office for the chief’s closest advisors and spokesmen. The counselor bore the staff while leading official processions and held it while seated next to the chief during state ceremonies. As usual, a figure is carved on top that cultured members of the community would recognize as symbolic of a proverb or some other phrase of wisdom. The proverb “a good mouth blesses itself” is an example of the value the Akan place on the ability to speak wisely and well. This staff’s terminal figure is a gold-covered leopard, identified by its wicked grin, upturned tail, and four legs on the ground. While probably too simple a figure to represent a proverb, it still reminds observers during political rituals of the strength and cunning required of a successful chief.

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