a large antique african efic hand embossed brass charger, tray,platter from old calabar, decorated with a geometric design dating to around 1910.
The charger is decorated with geometric patterns and styalised plants, possibly the plant costas spectabilis commonly known as the yellow trumpet flower that produces large fleshy leaves that form as a rosette as they grow close to the ground. once growing in abundance , today the plant is becoming rare in Nigeria. for centuries the plant has been used in making incense and medicines, and was traded extensively.the flower as an herb is fully edible and has a fruity flavour and can be eaten raw. the plant by efic tradition is a symbol of beauty, uniqueness and prosperity.
large plain brass charger dishes and platters known as Neptunes were imported from britain to Nigeria and were then decorated locally in old calabar. regarded as important prestige items by the local chiefs they were displayed with great ceremony. Items of efik decorated brass were also presented by the king and chiefs to important dignitaries and distinguished visitors to the area. these chargers are interesting transcultural aesthetic expressions resulting from a history of european contact .
art is an underemphasized contributor to efik mythology. efik beliefs in ndem and ekpe were transmitted via engravings on brass plates (akpangkpang). prior to the depiction of myths, events and stories on brass plates, efik women expressed their art by decorating houses with geometric designs of various kinds. women were regarded as the artisans in old calabar society. women would create beautifully finished products which would then be bought and taken as souvenirs from Old Calabar by english traders, these products, particularly the calabashes ( gourds )were fragile and very often goods would break on their journey to england. edem ndarake also known as mr. ironbar is regarded as the father of brass art in efik history. The wives of Ironbar were active members of the calabash engraving industry. mr Ironbar chose to solve the problem of art breakages and wastage by encouraging the women artists to transfer their designs to brass which was a far more durable and luxurious material. mr. ironbar earnt his monika after encouraging the english traders to bargain with iron bars which inturn could be used as tools for decorating brass products such as trays, dishes and basins. brass dishes were often designed with images of efik deities, often the designs depicted animals, flora and fauna and geometric patterns that were symbolic to the deities.
the size of the platters were quite standard, varying between 430mm and 460mm in diameter.
this tray is a fine example of this punched or chased metalwork decoration. the small metal tools with shaped ends were used to give impressions such as dots, lines or semicircles. these were then lightly held against the surface of the metal and tapped with a hammer to give the required detail and texture.