Gold Earrings

Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Fulani
Place: Southern Mali
Media: Gold plate
Dims: Varied
Date: n.d.
RTC No: AF0084
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


As a Native American I know the majority of the cultural values within the U.S. The staff at the Coe introduced my fellow peers and I to the African collection and this was very exciting, yet curious. They had similar things to us Natives in the U.S and I wanted to see what we had in common. The item I decided to pick was the Gold Fulani earrings. I decided to pick these because all the Pueblos in New Mexico have a unique way of making earrings. The African style was so amazing because they were made out of pure gold, which was so beautiful to see.

—Dynette Chavez (Jicarilla Apache) [The Mirror Effect: Reflections upon our Realities, Hands-On Curatorial Program exhibition May-July 2017]

These three beautiful Fulani gold earrings range in sizes large, medium, and small. They are remarkably striking because of their consistent design in each pair’s folds and twists, causing them to resemble a leaf in shape. There is some weight to the earrings but not as heavy as you would imagine. What is also impressive is the rawhide case that stores the earrings.

The Fulani people live in West Africa, in the countries of Nigeria, Senegal, and Guinea. The Fulani are known for their traditional jewelry, especially their large gold earrings, ­worn by women for centuries. This twisted gold earring style is called bhoylé and is a sign of nobility. The Fulani were heavily nomadic. They would wear their wealth in the form of jewelry, and when encountering other groups, they would use their jewelry to trade for goods. These personal adornments continue today, helping to maintain the wealth status and cultural significance for Fulani peoples.

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