Antique Tuareg Manilla Currency/Slave Bracelet, North /West Africa (3156JCE)


H: 3.5”  W: 3.625”  Thick: 0.50” Circum. 10.125” | FREE SHIPPING

This finely fashioned antique Tuareg manilla bracelet/anklet from Mali or Niger was fashioned using a sand mold to create a slim circular-shaped bracelet with hoof-shaped terminals, hand incised line decorations, and applied faceted rounded beads at the open ends. It is decorated with v-shaped incised striations that continue through the ends with 13 facet ends.  Manillas were important currency for nomadic populations since they were easily portable. It is in excellent condition with a fine patina, some signs of age, and wear and comes with a wood and metal stand.


For centuries the Tuareg, historically nomadic tribal peoples who traversed the Sahel region and the Sahara Desert, like most African peoples, especially in West Africa, created metal arm and ankle bracelets that were symbols of wealth and status, fashion adornments, used ceremonially for births, coming of age, marriages, and burials, to trade for animals and domestic and agricultural goods and as a medium of exchange where there were no banks or conventional currency exchange systems. This Manilla is from  Mali or Niger. Individual Tuareg tribes each use unique symbolism and decorative motifs passed down for generations. Dassine Oult-Yemma, the Poet of the Ahaggar explained that sticks indicate legs of men, camels and other animals, crosses or x’s indicate guiding signals at roads, and circles have a spiritual meaning. “We start from our heart, and move from circle to circle ever more widely, into the Circle of Life, like the horizon circles around you and your herd.” (Hagan and Meyers).

During the colonization of Africa in the 1500s, the British, French, Portugese, Belgians and Dutch appropriated these bracelets and manufactured their own versions they named manillas. Once a beautiful indigenous form of currency and adornment for and by African peoples, manillas became the currency for the slave trade to the Americas and were referred to as slave bracelets, slave trade money, currency slave bracelets and slave currency to purchase slaves to work on plantations in the Americas. Slave bracelets were finally prohibited for use by foreign traders under the Manilla Currency Ordinance of 1919 but continued to be used by the West African Currency Board for several decades. The 1940s and 50’s witnessed a strong and successful movement to collect, confiscate and meltdown manillas to use for other purposes. Manillas are still worn by slave descendants in the Caribbean as a significant family treasure to pass on to future generations.


Helen E. Hagan and Lucile Meyers, Tuareg Jewelry: Traditional Patterns and Symbols, Xlibrus Corporation, 2006.

African Jewelry, African Slave Trade Bracelets/Manilla, North Africa, Saharan Africa, Tuareg, West Africa

Additional information

Place of Origin

Africa, North and West Africa


Antique (1200-1920)


19th Century

Materials and Technique

Bronze/brass/copper alloy

Dimensions (inches)

H: 3.5" W: 3.625" Thick: .437" Circum: 10.125"

Dimensions (metric)

H: 8.9 cm W: 9.1 cm Thick: 1.12 cm Circum: 25.78 cm




Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Reference Number


Shipping Box Size