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Black History Culture : Gold Teeth, African Origin???

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Blackbird, Sep 29, 2004.

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  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Greetings all,

    I'm still adjusting to my new locale and meeting new folx here in the "city of lost wages - Las Vegas". This one sister I met here at my workplace, after finding out I'm from Loosey-ana, became intrigue with meh - my dialect and my mannerisms of course. She said she's met a few people here from my homestate and she noticed how some of them are "slugged up" or got a mouth filled with gold. Personally, I don't wear gold but can attest to how common it is back home - my dad, auntie, brother and sister all have gold teeth. The sister's observation got my mind pondering. I remember stories about how during slavery gold teeth helped to distinguish a "free" Black person from an enslaved one. Once a slave was freed, he/she may get a gold tooth to signify emancipation.

    My wife is from Ghana and she told me in Ghana that once a Muslim makes al'hajj, he may get a gold tooth to signify his pilgrimmage. Louisiana, during slave trading days, imported many Africans from the Senegambia area, which even during those times was populated by Islamic African people. Doing my own family genealogy, I found that one of my ancestors could possibly have been Muslim. I saw his name on a tombstone in the family cemetary. His name was Wali and he had a granddaughter named Silla. I estimated Wali was born sometime in the early 19th century. Silla was also the name of an old Soninke city-state in West Africa (thought to have been located within present-day Senegal, not to far from Kayes). The Soninke people, the founding nation of the kingdom of Ghana, have been practicing some form of Islam since circa 1300 A.C.E. Sylla, a variation of Silla, is also a clan name of the Mande people, parent group of the Soninke.

    Muslim slaves were "freed" at a greater frequency than non-Muslim slaves due to their "literacy" - adeptness to read and write (even if it was Arabic). Could there possibly be a connection? What do you think?

    Blackbird -pouring my libations to my ancestor Wali in remembrance....
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  2. MANASIAC

    MANASIAC Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Nice post Black Bird their could be a possible link but it is really hard to tell ya know? We got a religious rite on one hand and on other just simply bling bling.

    I guess another question could be, did some people during that time actually were them for a status symbol?

    If they did then it is a very direct connection, but it would be hard for us to know really, since we did not stay their with them. It is a thought tho
  3. panafrica

    panafrica Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Interesting Brother BlackBird:

    I knew that gold teeth in our community are not a new trend. I noticed that legendary boxer Jack Johnson had gold teeth way back in 1909! However I was not aware of an African tradition of this. Based on your history though I wonder if this is African or Arabic? If African Muslims are awarded a gold tooth after their journey to Meca, certainly it would suggest an Arabic influence.
  4. jamesfrmphilly

    jamesfrmphilly going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    as an older person, desperately trying to keep my teeth in my mouth, i would advise against anyone removing a perfectly good and healthy tooth.

    as a trumpet player, i would never let anyone go near my teeth for bling.

    this is one tradition i don't think should be carried forward.
  5. MississippiRed

    MississippiRed Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Being from the Sip I grew up with family and friends that were slugged up ..and from what my Granddaddy told me a lot of folks got them just for adornment but some folk had slugs as a form of wealth....in case times got tough and his money got funny...he said he didn't trust no bank cause they could lose them greenbacks but if push came to shove he'd always have them golds in his mouth to use in case of financial emergency...and a couple of other folk including his wife(my Gramama) told me the same thing an as a point of reference she was born in 1899 and was told the same by her mama .... too bad they're both gone now there's a lot of things I'd like to ask them about but anyway I guess different folk had different reasons ...

    Mississippi Red
    "I ain't gon state no color but her front teeth crowned with gold" Robert Johnson Traveling Riverside Blues
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  6. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Red, now, that's pretty interesting insight... And 'Bird, thanks for bringing this topic to the forum... I've also noticed this practice among other Diasporans from Cuba, Haiti, Guyana, and the other english-speaking Caribbean countries... Additionally, I have seen quite a few Indo Guyanese folks who do this sort of thing... Perhaps, they are jockin' our steelo(smile!)

    Peace!
    Isaiah
  7. Blackbird

    Blackbird Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Panafrica,

    Bruh, I don't know.... I recall the people of the Senegambia region where gold filigrees are created and adored by a many Wolof, Tukulor, and Peul women alike. In my wife's native land, I marvel at the impressive state swords of the present-day (henes). Thinking back at these present-day testaments, the argument for a African root is about as forminable as an Arabic one. Gold and gold-smithing are nothing new to African people as the ancient Wangara bare witness, as well as, the ancient descriptions of the court of Wagadugu (Ghana). The Fante and other Akan cluster people used intricately designed gold-weights for economic purposes. Definitely, our people were familiar with gold and highly proficient in working in that medium. Speculation of a tradition of gold dental work is nor as far-fetch given the African mastery and intimacy with gold.

    Blackbird - disappears back into the ether
  8. panafrica

    panafrica Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Indeed! Thank You for the info brother BlackBird.
  9. MANASIAC

    MANASIAC Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Hey fellas, could it be possible that the arabic tradition of giving out a gold tooth for a reward was influenced and started by africans who converted to islam?

    I arrive at this opinion because the arabic culture really had not mastery of denistry, even in the golden age of arabic culture, you will be hard pressed to find any reference to denistry.

    Moreoever, the religion of islam itself was heavily influenced by Africa.
  10. toylin

    toylin Active Member MEMBER

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    :thinking: Good point.

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