Saturday, April 23, 2016

Bracelets of African Origins

 African origins

Manillas, were a traditional African exchange medium, and in the same time were originally metal bracelets or armlets. Later forms were made of copper, bronze, or brass open rings, almost ring-like, and often horseshoe shaped. The term is derived from the Spanish for bracelet, or manella, or the Portuguese for hand-ring (Rees, 2000). The origin is from the Latin manus or hand meaning monilia, or monile the plural for necklace. (

The universal name for manillas is an ancient term for money, brass or exchange coinage. During the 1470s, Portuguese explorers became aware that cooper bracelets and leg-bands were means of exchange at all along the west coast of Africa. Usually, they were worn by women to display their husband's wealth. Copper, regarded as the ‘red gold’ of Africa, was mined and then traded across the Sahara by merchants from Italy and Arabia. These early Portuguese traders bought tusks of ivory, peppers, and slaves by exchanging currency “manillas bracelets” acceptable to the Africans (Rees, 2000). Eventually manillas became known as slave trade money after they were used by Europeans to acquire slaves. A slave cost about 12 to 15 brass manillas in the 1490s, but consistently less, if they were of copper (Rees, 2000). With inflation a female slave aged 16 in Benin cost about 50 manillas in 1522.

The Nigerian manillas in the African manilla trade have been described as “… an open bracelet in the form of a horseshoe with lozenge shaped ends, measuring about 2 ¼ inches across and weighing about 3 ounces.” (Herbert, 1984) British established an important role in African commerce after 1807 in the palm oil trade. Manillas of various types were traded for oil instead of slaves. (

On the left: Coiled Copper Bracelet. Represented as a sign of wealth and used as currency. Copper calaber rod of thick gauge with bulbous ends that is generally attributed in Nigeria, whose word for money is Mondua. This is the oldest African trade money. Location: West Africa/ Nigeria | Dimensions: 9" x 3.75" x 4.5" | \With Stand 9.25" x 6.25" x 6.25. (

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