Iron and bronze objects – Western Africa


First proofs of metal smelting in Africa reaches back to the last centuries of our Common Era.

If metal has been processed, it has been used mainly for weapons, ritual objects and commodities. Iron objects used in rituals are manly kwon in Mali and Nigeria.

Blacksmiths play an important role in nearly all African societies. They can be regarded in many different ways: as a worshiped person, a person to fear or to trust. What all have in common is that they life in an own residential district.

Since the blacksmith knows how to handle fire, it is said that he has magic powers. In some ethnic groups he is also responsible for crafting ritual objects like masks and wooden sculptures.
The Bambara and Dogon carry different ritual iron objects (charms) with them to be protected against ghosts and daemons. The Lobi place iron snakes in front of their houses to protect them against poisonous snakes. The exact meaning of them is always difficult to know, due to the huge variety of religious beliefs and cultures.

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