Kotoko metalworkers in the vicinity of Lake Chad used the lost-wax technique to cast small bronze figurines that were kept as personal amulets. Worn around an owner’s neck or carried by hand or in a small pouch, they safeguarded their owners against outward threats and inner perils.
Many of these amulets depict horse riders and are known as putchu guinadj. These images are deeply rooted in a regional history of horse-mounted warfare that left an indelible impression on the culture of the Kotoko. Their potency as magical and mythological symbols allow them to quell spirits which cause weakness of soul, sadness, fear, and alienation. They were often hung from necklaces and bracelets along with other items of protection and propitiation, such as cowrie shells, leather gri-gri amulets, and bells.
The trio of figurines presented here show classic forms of animated, vigorous riders in various postures of horsemanship, exuding an outsized personality and charm common to these miniature bronzes.