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Tribal art expert Michael Hamson.

These are Fulani gold earrings from the Fulani people of West Africa, that live in several countries south of the Niger River. The Fulani people take immense pride in their personal appearance, and the women decorate themselves with gold, silver and amber jewelry.

...Like these earrings, which are also symbols of status and wealth.

These gold earrings were normally given by the husband to his wife as a gift. They're made with very thinly hammered gold that's meant to maximize the visual impact of the gold, while minimizing the actual amount of material used.

As a woman gets older and has children, she adds more gold to her earrings. Eventually such a pair can weigh up to half a pound and may require an extra strap to avoid tearing the earlobe.

The Fulani also scarify and tattoo their skin, and wear their hair in ornately sculpted styles accentuated with amber beads and silver. This is not just for special occasions; it's an everyday look.

The tribe's culture of beauty evolved hand-in-hand with their traditionally nomadic lifestyle.

They have a very limited amount of personal possessions. And thus they're not carrying furniture and art objects. What they're really holding onto are very small personal items that are easily carried.

Step17-Gold Earrings, Fulani Culture, West Africa

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