Over 600 years ago the Akan started to make brass weights for weighing gold dust, the currency of their region in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Eventually they produced the most complete three dimensional inventory of any culture in history.Virtually every animal, bird, fish or object known to them became the subject of a miniature sculpture. Human figures are represented in the activities of everyday life and sacred or courtly rituals, together with pioneer casts from nature and a wealth of abstract and ornamental designs. The artist Tom Phillips has, in the last thirty years, built up the world's most comprehensive collection of these lively and imaginative artefacts and here presents a selection of more than 500 chosen for their artistry and interest, accompanied by a full descriptive text about their history, styles and modes of manufacture.
Tom Phillips CBE RA is a painter, writer, translator and composer. Collaborators include the filmmaker Peter Greenaway (A TV Dante), the novelist Salman Rushdie (Merely Connect) and the composer Tarik O'Regan (Heart of Darkness). Informing Phillips's work for half a century, A Humument has appeared in many guises beyond book and exhibition form, including operatically in Irma, digitally as an app and aurally, read by the artist himself. Tom Phillips is also an ardent Africanist. His groundbreaking exhibition `Africa: The Art of a Continent' at the Royal Academy in 1992 attracted huge crowds and enthusiastic reviews. He is himself a collector of African Art, specializing in the arts of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.