Goldsmiths' 40th Anniversary Fair and the World’s Richest Man

At the Goldsmith's Fair I was honoured to introduce Dr Gus Casely Hayford for his talk on Emperor Mansa Musa. Gus is the first director of V&A East (due to open in 2024) and he had very kindly agreed to a talk during the 40th anniversary of the Goldsmiths' Fair (the same fair where I had first exhibited in 1988).

The Goldsmiths' Fair, which runs till October 9th, is an amazing opportunity for craftspeople in silver and gold to talk about their work, and to display and sell it. Many of them work all year to produce pieces just for the fair which showcases a wide variety of skills. I have long believed that art of any form is vital in society to help bind us all together.

Gus spoke about the story of the Emperor Mansa Musa, the richest man who ever lived. He was a medieval African king who built a vast kingdom on the edge of the Sahara in a continent we now know is eleven million square miles in size and full of earthly riches - in fact much of the world's gold and platinum come from Africa. But less is known of the man himself - he was a charismatic political strategist who used control of West African gold production to transform his kingdom into an unchallenged intellectual powerhouse. And Gus told us his story:

In brief, Mansa Musa ruled Mali in Western Africa from 1312 C.E. to 1337 and made it into a great cultural centre, especially around Timbuktu. His riches came from mining significant salt and gold deposits in the Mali kingdom and he built the famed Sankore Madraza for 25,000 students. During his reign he decided he should make the pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca, visiting the Sultan of Egypt enroute and gathering many of the great writers and thinkers of the time with him.

I highly recommend a trip to the Goldsmiths' fair, for anyone interested in the craft and design of jewellery.

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