Inventory no.: 1877

West African Cast Bronze Chameleon Ring


Cast Bronze ‘Double Chameleon’ Ring

Lobi People, Burkina Faso; or Senufo People, Ivory Coast

18th-19th century

height: 5.4cm, weight: 36g

This fine cast bronze ring is cast with a pair of geometrically-shaped chameleons with elaborately curled tails. The bodies of the chameleons have been cast with spots. The ring is encrusted with tukula powder residue suggesting it has been worn during ceremonies or rituals.

According to van Cutsem (2000) and Roberts (1995), the chameleon symbolises cosmic order and ethics, whose physical features and behaviour serve as images for the religious instructor’s teachings. Robbins and Nooter (1989, p. 127) say that among the Senufo people, chameleons represent the first animal in the Senufo creation myth and such rings were worn by men.

van Cutsem (2000, p. 75) illustrates several related examples although each of these is cast with a single chameleon.

The ring has substantial wear with softened contours. It is marked to the inside of the ring with two old collection inventory numbers.


van Cutsem, A., A World of Rings: Africa, Asia, America, Skira, 2000.

Robbins, W. M. & N. I. Nooter,

African Art in American Collections, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

Roberts, A. F.,

Animals in African Art: From the Familiar to the Marvelous, Prestel, 1995.


Private Collection, Germany, acquired 1960-81

Inventory no.: 1877