DEFINITION,HISTORY AND USES OF COWRY

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COWRY

What is cowry: Cowry can be explained  as sea or marine invertebrate animal shell which has a glossy and brightly patterned with a long narrow opening. These animals have a soft body, live in or near water and most kinds have external hard shell. Example of such animals include ;snail ,octopus and mussel.

History of Cowry

Around Eighth century(8th CE), in west African, cowry was the most famous and well accepted currency ,this particular currency was called ‘money cowry’ which is the shell of a small creature that lives in water or in a tropical area.

Cowry was first used by caravans of Arab traders,they were the first set of traders to introduce cowry into west Africa as used during the trans-saharan trade,I.e the traffic flow between North African and west African through Sahara desert.

Arab traders were carrying cowries from Atlantic ocean to North African then across the desert to sub-Saharan west African. when Europeans found out cowrie was one of the commercial transactions,they got interested in it as means of trading.

African’s preference of cowrie to gold made it being imported in the ship of dutch to the guinea coast of west African. With the advent of Atlantic slave trade,cowry was  one of the item European exchanged with coast of west African for slave.

Gradually, it was generally accepted as means of commercial transactions and trade in the world ,aside being for that ,it also performs some other unique functions.

  • Uses of Cowry

1.Serve as jewelry:A hole and small grooves of the cowry implies that it could be worn as jewelry around the neck ,waist and wrist.

2.Decorator: In west African cowry is  still used for many things including decorating clothes e.g people examined that cowries are carried to Virginia to be attached to the clothing of an African slave,it was attached to their clothes in that the captivator could differentiate between an old and newly enslaved.It is  also used in decorating drums especially during festival or once in a while ritual performance and lastly it could be used as ornaments to dress hair mostly attributed to royal lineage or ritual sculptures such as masks and statuettes.

3.Diviner cast /predict:Cowries are used to fore-tell the future by throwing it up and the situation would be determined by the way it lands.weather it landfacing up or down.

4.Symbol of protection: It serve as protection in different cases, for instance, In some tribes it is known and worn around the neck or on the wrist as a means of protection and at other place as a sign of fertility,it is worn by women to help them conceive safely.

5.Spirit of wealth:In west African,Yoruba land to be precised,understood wearing of cowries to be  attributed to one family of an ocean and spirit of fabulous wealth ,while, in American,they strongly believe cowries represented destiny and prosperity.

NOTE: When we talk about cowrie ,it refers to and symbolizes African or better still,blacks old means of buying and selling. It was gotten from Indian Atlantic ocean shipped to Egypt (North African)and to other parts of African and on the long run it lasted for centuries ,before it was rejected and abadoned as means of commercial transaction by India traders because it was too much and worthless at their side.

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