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.

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Akan peoples
Linguist Staff with Finial Representing an Elephant
Wood and gold leaf
.1: 7 3/8 × 2 7/8 × 7 3/8 in. (18.7 × 7.3 × 18.7 cm) .2: 53 1/2 × 2 1/4 in. (135.9 × 5.7 cm)
Credit Line

Gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

Current Location
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Accession Number
Ceremonial Objects & Regalia

Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. (1913–2008), Houston, before 1997; given to MFAH, 1997.