These heavy swords—which measured up to 23 inches or longer—were created by the Ngombe tribe, although many neighboring groups in the Congo used them too. Similar to an extravagant sickle this sword or “executioner’s sword” started out as a tool for human sacrifice but evolved into becoming more as a symbol of the act. It was then ultimately used as currency. It was however slowly outlawed after the Belgian government introduced the Congolese Franc in the 20th century.
Akan Gold Weights
Technically referred to as gold weights, these tiny figurines created by the Akan people of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire were normally made of brass or copper. But these Akan gold weights were not used as the means of trade, instead, they were used to measure the weight of gold dust, which was the main currency. It was blacksmiths who measured and recorded the precise weight of each piece. If you owned a complete set of gold weights that was a good sign of wealth. You can still find these gold weights stand in museums around the world.
These were shells of sea snails. Used in West Africa during the 8th century, it is believed that Arab merchants introduced this form of legal tender. There is evidence that Asian countries near the Pacific and the Indian Ocean also used this item as official currency. Because they were rare and easy to carry around Cowries emerged as an ideal currency in the region. According to the British Museum, one chain could have up to 40 cowries.
The Katanga Cross was used throughout the region of Central Africa between the 13th century (maybe earlier) and the 20th century. Aptly named Katanga, it originated in the copper-rich region area in the southeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It could only be mined by a mysterious sect of society known as the Bwanga. The Katanga Cross also served as an important symbol of wealth and power. The cross was no longer in use by the mid-20th century, but today continues to be a symbol of the rich history of the Katanga people.
Various ethnic groups in Congo used this textile as a currency but the most popular was the Kasai velvet. The Shoowa people of Kuba in the Republic of the Congo have been making this textile since the 17th century. Local legends state the Kuba people learned weaving from other ethnic groups. Today, however, they are the ones that are recognized for this craft. Hand-woven and typically made of dyed fibers from raffia palm leaves, the colorful cloth is decorated with traditional motifs. As it was rarely worn, it was used ceremonially, as well as for currency and gifts during marriages.