MPUANNUM five tufts Jazzberry jam
Mpuannum [Symbol of Dignity]
Name/Theme: Mpuannum/Old age, Dignity
Literal Translation: ‘Five tufts of hair’ (Rattray, 1959: 265)
Meaning: ‘Mpua refers to tuft of hair, annum means five. Mpuannum therefore means five tufts of hair. This is a hair style created in such a way that there are braids or tufts of hair left on the head.
Background: Hairdressing, arranging or otherwise altering the hair for enhanced beauty, for practicality, or to indicate status is an art of the past as reflected by this symbol. The process may involve cutting, plucking, curling, braiding, bleaching, dyeing, powdering, oiling, or adding false hair (such as a wig or fall) or ornaments. Hairstyles have played an important part in the cultural identity of men and women in Asante.
Traditionally, one’s social status especially in the royal household was symbolized by hair style. Most Asante royal women wear a hair style known as ‘dansinkran’ that leaves a distinct hair line dividing the soot blackened head from the rest of the body. Maid servants of the queen mother, kept varied hair styles. Some of them are ‘Borodobetem’ worn by the tail switch bearers, Mpuannum also forms the centre motive in the hair style of the aged female stool bearers and attendants of the queen mother’s court.
Moral Value: The symbol signifies the respect accorded the elderly because of their wisdom, wide experience and ability to forecast and to counsel the inexperienced. This is a symbol of old age and dignity.
Originator: Agya Kwadwo Maanu an indigene of Asante-Ntonso is believed to have adopted the symbol (Nana Agya Bedu-2007 a Master Artisan at Ntonso). The year of its origination is unknown but it is believed to have been first used during the reign of Nana Osei Bonsu I who ruled Ashanti kingdom from (1804-1823).
Extract from Cultural Symbolism in Asante Traditional Textiles by ABRAHAM EKOW ASMAH
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