Akan goldweights have always been popular in both museum and private collections. They were used in the past as currency for trading purposes and for paying taxes and fines. It cannot yet be established exactly when goldweights were first used by the Akan, but they were certainly in use on the coast when Europeans first came in direct contact with the Akan in the mid-1400s.
There are thousands of gold weights. The gold weights may be divided into four broad categories on the basis of their appearance: figurines that portray various human forms and human activities; fauna and floral patterns of the country; those that depict human made objects; and those of geometric, abstract, or purely ornamental designs. Each of the gold weights is encoded with a proverb, a story, an aphorism, myth or some other aspect of the extensive Akan oral literature.
If there is any one person who has helped keep the art of casting gold weights alive, that person is Kofi Dwenfour. Kofi is the resident metal (brass) caster at the National Cultural Center in Kumasi. He was born in 1964 and lived briefly in Abidjan, La Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), where his father worked as a blacksmith. When his family moved back to Ghana they settled in Krofrom. Krofrom, in the Kumasi suburb, is one of the crafts villages that are dotted around the Asante capital.
Just when Kofi started formal schooling at the local primary school, he was also apprenticed to Agya Ofori, a renowned metalcaster at Krofrom. Agya Ofori taught Kofi the cire perdue (lost wax) process of metal casting. Kofi learnd to cast gold weights (abrammoo), masks and containers like "kuduo." After he graduated from the apprenticeship, he set up his own shop in another part of the town. He has been the resident metal caster at the National Cultural Center for about nine years.
Kofi's work is singularly important because it marks the transition between the art of yesterday and that of today. Kofi creates works which, though based on the traditionally accepted forms, have an air of modernity about them. He, for example, makes gold weighs with hooks on them so that they can be worn as lockets on neck chains.