Berz Gallery of African Art
62_1.jpg

Akan/Asante Life-Affirming Prestige Comb: It Does Have A Certain, Er, Um, Charm? Really, Doesn't It?

  • Akan/Asante Tribe, Ghana

    Composition: wood (one piece), stain, oils Dimensions: 9.5" (24.13 cm) h x 2.75" ( 6.98 cm) w Provenance: Ex. Private NY Collection All purchases includes custom made base as displayed and a complete dossier/certificate of authenticity. It can be said almost without exception that African combs and hair objects are a source of pride for their owner. “The tools of the hairdresser include pins, combs, and razors. Scissors did not appear south of the Sahara until introduced by North African leather workers and by European missionaries and colonials” (Hair in African Art and Culture, Sieber and Herreman, Prestel, 2000). Hair ornaments, such as this richly carved Asante comb, express authority, wealth, initiation stage, marital status, and provide adornment for beauty. The Asante, among countless other tribes, carved combs and hairpins for all of these reasons. This comb is of exceptional quality an age and a level of craftsmanship that makes it likely that someone of great status within the tribe owned it. Atop the comb is an abstracted “akua ba” figure, that of the ideal image of an Asante child, but with juxtaposed animal horns. It is a very elaborately carved example and shows more use/wear than most we have owned. It also appears to be signed by the carver or featuring an Asante/Twi phrase---we have yet to look into it in our haste to present the piece. The comb illustrates why Asante combs are among the most sought after by collectors worldwide. Provenance and Age: From our somewhat extensive experience with combs of this type and a physical analysis of its surface, style and other details, it is most likely that the comb was created in the early 20th century. The surface of the piece shows signs of even and consistent aging. The comb has been oiled a bit with palm oil, which was, from all evidence, applied during its period of use. A comb like this was as much a prestige object as it may have been a useful hair ornament but this was clearly used, as indicated by the wear and staining. A very minor amount of professional restoration/conservation has been done to the bottom of the prongs on the comb. There is some immaterial wear on the left edge, as can be noted in the photos.