Antique Tuareg Manilla Currency/Slave Bracelet, North and West Africa (3145DHM)


H: 3.125″   W: 3.125″   D: 0.75″ | FREE SHIPPING!

This elegantly shaped horseshoe-shaped manilla from the Mali and Niger region is decorated with hammered and incised embellishments, designs, and decorative motifs unique to individual Tuareg tribes that have been passed on for generations. It is divided into distinct sections, each with detailed traditional etched linear designs, circular cutouts, diamonds, grooves and terminating in large rounded knot finials incised with layered triangles designs. The patina shows its age, long use, and wear. It is in excellent condition despite the expected minor discoloration, a crack, and some oxidation consistent with age. It comes with a wood and metal stand.





For centuries the Tuareg, historically nomadic tribal peoples who traversed the Sahel region and Saharan-Africa, like most African peoples, especially in West Africa, created metalwork  African-jewelry wrist and ankle bracelets that were symbols of wealth and status, fashion adornments and used ceremonially for births, coming of age, marriages, and burials and to trade for animals and domestic and agricultural goods. They were a medium of exchange wherever there were conventional currency exchange systems. 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 African-art and African-metalwork treasure to pass on to future generations.

Click here for the Blog Manillas: Former African Trade Currency.


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




Additional information

Place of Origin

Africa, North and West Africa


Antique (1200-1920)


19th Century

Materials and Technique

Bronze/brass/copper alloy

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 3.125 “:W: 3.125” Thick: .75” Circum: 8.5”

Dimensions (metric)

H: 7.94cm W: 7.94cm Thick: 1.91cm Circum: 21.59cm


15 oz


Excellent, See Descripton

Reference Number

3145 DHM

Shipping Box Size