ASANTE  (ASHANTI) ASIPIM  CHAIR 4, Ghana


 
Photographs © Tim Hamill

ASANTE
ASIPIM CHAIR 4
35" high x 20" wide x 23" deep
$2000

This chair has been vetted as authentic, dating from the 19th or early 20th Century.

This slightly larger example is in very good condition. The metal embellishments are complete and the seat and back are covered with embossed brass sheeting.

A really great chair. This is an extraordinary example of asipim chair from the Asante of Ghana. The worn legs inform us of its age and long use and the uniqueness of the chair as all surfaces are covered with brass sheeting with patterns and designs worked onto the surface by tacks and brass caps. The chair is uncommon in that all surfaces are covered with brass sheet indicating the high status of its owner, obviously a royal of some rank.

The decorative and symbolic motifs made by lines of tacks show an elliptical circle with a heart at its center and with two arcs of tacks anchored at the sides of the backrest. At the back of the chair a simple heart shaped by tacks is emphasized by designs worked in repousse in the brass sheet around it. Among the Asante people the heart (Akoma) is the subject of a number of proverbs and popular sayings that reflect upon positive virtues of goodwill, patience, tolerance and consistency. The heart is a motif often found worked onto the surface of brass sheet containers known as forowa or as a stamped image on adinkra cloth.

Asipim chairs are often seen in Asante royal courts leaning against walls when not in use. Constructed simply out of wood with a hide seat they are patterned after 17th or 18th century English chairs known as "farthingale", "upholsterer's chair", or "embroiderers' chair". Through time they have become identified with Asante chieftaincy becoming symbols of social status and rank in which even minor chiefs will have a number of asipim chairs and more prominent chiefs will have many more. Reflecting Asante expectations of their rulers to be firm and authoritative, the chair takes its name, asipim "I stand firm". Asipim chairs will be decorated with brass tacks and caps, turned finials, worked brass sheets which are incised, worked in repousse' or stamped. The turned brass finials called ntuatire attached to the tops of the chairs represent abstracted claws of an eagle. These finials were made in Europe and traded in the region.

Dr. Daniel Mato
Professor Emeritus of Art History
The University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

 

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