Kuduo (container)

Akan people, Asante subgroup18th-19th century

The Toledo Museum of Art

The Toledo Museum of Art


  • Title: Kuduo (container)
  • Creator: Akan people, Asante subgroup
  • Date Created: 18th-19th century
  • Location Created: Ghana
  • Physical Dimensions: h219 mm (Complete)
  • Catalogue entry: "A hungry leopard tries to eat any animal."—Akan proverbAkan kings and courtiers possessed treasure caskets called kuduo, modeled after metal vessels imported into the region by traders from North Africa and the Near East. This kuduo is unusually large and elaborate. The combat motif on the lid—a solid cast sculpture of a leopard attacking a horned quadruped, probably a ferocious bush cow—symbolizes the owner's strength and courage. The bands of geometric patterns incised into the surface partly reproduce traditional designs and partly imitate the script and arabesques of Islamic calligraphy (see also 1941.23 and 1970.56). The prominent, hinged latch allowed the precious contents within to be secured.Kuduo were used to hold valuables such as gold dust, nuggets, chains, and ornaments like the Baule People pendant (see 1977.72). Other important treasures were small items with personal and spiritual significance. Assembled in the kuduo, they were believed to be the owner's kra, or life force. As the owner grew more powerful and wealthy over the course of his life, so too did his treasure increase. Kuduo were used during ritual ceremonies to strengthen the owner's kra, to ensure the health of a newborn baby, to honor a girl at puberty, and to purify a king or chief. After death, kuduo and other possessions were deposited in the grave or, if the owner was an important chief, placed with his ritually blackened ceremonial stool in a family shrine.
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
  • External Link: Toledo Museum of Art
  • Medium: Copper alloy, cast and raised, with incised decoration and traces of red pigment