The Cowry: More than just a Currency Essay

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Currency is often simplified in our modern day world; we take for granted its beauty and symbolism and only think about its face value. However in ancient Nigeria, the natives valued their currency as a representation of several key elements of their culture—the cowry represented fertility, divinity, durability, and spirituality in early times. The cowry has since evolved into a symbol of advancement of Nigeria from a primitive state into a modernized nation—it has helped Nigeria maintain its identity and cultural history while helping the nation to develop. The cowry, not only a simplistic, bartering currency for Ancient Nigeria, represents a sophisticated, evolving currency that has manifested itself in the culture and everyday lives of …show more content…
They have found representations of the cowries as a story tool in these art forms showing payment for various things. More recent art have cowries beaded on it, representation of payments to the gods, or home decoration of cowry beads displayed to signify wealth. This display of wealth represented importance and manifested itself into the instruments used in the cultural festivities of the tribes. Several drums, crucial to ceremonies (such as the wrestling matches in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart) are decorated to represent their importance in the cultural aspect of Nigerian life. Often these instruments were decorated with cowries, to help show the importance of the instrument and the purpose in Nigerian culture. With the cowry being displayed, it showed the gods a type of payment—that they were being properly worshipped. Just as with Nigerian art, the cowry left a significant impact on the religious order of tribes in the region.
Cowries played a key role in several parts of the indigenous religions in Nigeria; they helped shape the religious aspects of daily life and were instrumental in the processes of honoring deities. In daily life, cowries were used in a variation of divination. This system of visualizing the future, depended on the up and down layout of the cowries, as well as the shape they formed. The ancient Nigerians believed that this was one method of communication with their deceased, and their deities. They also believed that this

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