Linguist Staff Finial Representing an Elephant with Linguist Staff


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Houston, United States

This linguist staff is decorated with human ears and a top depicting an elephant. It represents the proverb "The ears of the chief are as big as those of an elephant," meaning that the chief hears all.

Linguists, called akyeame, are important royal advisers. A linguist speaks for the chief and relays the words of those who wish to speak to the chief. Depending on the size of a state, a chief usually has two to six linguists to counsel and represent him. Linguists are eloquent speakers knowledgeable about history, customs, and the law. Their positions are usually inherited through their mothers, although a chief may appoint a linguist.

The golden staffs carried by linguists feature carved figurative tops that relate the rich proverbs of the Akan peoples. These proverbs tell of the power of the chief, his right to rule, his responsibilities to his people, and how the people, in turn, should behave toward the chief, the state, and each other.


  • Title: Linguist Staff Finial Representing an Elephant with Linguist Staff
  • Creator: Akan
  • Date Created: 1800/1999
  • Physical Dimensions: w7.3 x h18.7 x d18.7 cm (meaurement of staff top)
  • Type: Ceremonial Objects & Regalia
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Wood and goldleaf
  • Culture: Akan
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps