Wealth of Africa:
4,000 years of money and trade

20 January – 26 June 2005

This exhibition is now closed

Part of Africa '05 season

Africa has a long and rich history, spanning ancient kingdoms, colonialism and independence. This exhibition takes you on a tour of this dynamic continent through its money, from coins to copper ingots, raffia cloth and cowrie shells.

The story begins with the use of weighed metal in Ancient Egypt, and with Africa's earliest coins in Cyrenaica (modern-day Libya) in the sixth century BC. The wealth of Mali, Zimbabwe, and the Swahili Coast show Africa's power and influence before the arrival of European colonisers and slave traders, whose legacy still lingers.

Links between money and identity are explored through changes to the coinage during the spread of Christianity and Islam, and the designing of currencies in the twentieth century for newly-independent African countries.

Find out more about the brass manilla (bracelet) on the Google Cultural Institute 

Brass manilla (bracelet)

Brass manilla (bracelet). Europe, probably 19th century AD