Antique Tuareg Manilla Currency/Slave Bracelet, North and West Africa (3145DHM) $295


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. Bracelets/anklets of this massive size were never worn as jewelry but were used as currency and to represent status. The patina shows its age, long use, and wear.  It comes with a wood and metal stand.





Two million Tuareg traditional herders were historically nomadic tribal peoples who traversed the Sahel region and the Sahara Desert in an area the size of Western Europe in the North African countries of Mali, Niger, Libya, Algeria, Chad and West African Burkina Faso. Called the “Blue Men of the Desert”, they are famous for their blue skin from the indigo-dyed garments they wear for protection from desert sun and wind. As followers of Islam, they are prohibited from creating figures or masks and use their artistic talents to create exceptional functional metalwork, wood, and leather objects embellished with abstract geometric designs including elaborate horseshoe shape manillas with massive terminals decorated with hand chasing. Their unique African-metalwork massive horseshoe shape manillas were not made for daily wear but were used to display personal wealth, currency for livestock and other items and for dowries ritual events and celebrations and were easy to carry and transport their wealth. After decades of colonization, destabilization, drought, famine, economic and political shifts and migrations to urban areas, the Tuareg nomadic lifestyle has changed dramatically.  During the colonization of Africa in the 1500s, the British, French, Portuguese, Belgians and Dutch appropriated these African-metalwork bracelets and manufactured their own versions in Europe and called them manillas. which became the currency for the slave trade and were referred to as slave bracelets, slave trade money and slave currency to purchase slaves for plantations in the Americas. Prohibited for use by foreign traders under the Manilla Currency Ordinance of 1919, during1940s and 50’s they were confiscated and melted down. Manillas are still worn by slave descendants in the Caribbean as family treasures to pass on to future generations. It is in excellent condition despite the expected minor discoloration, a crack, and some oxidation consistent with age. This piece is part of the VA African-Art and Tribal Art Collections.

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



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