Katanga Crosses - the X Shaped Currency of Congo

08 Aug 2016  Mon

“Katanga crosses” refers to a unique currency found in East African region. These X-shaped copper ingots are named after a region in Africa where they have been extensively found.

Located on the banks of river Zaire, Katanga is a province which has yielded many historical wonders. This chief copper – producing region was controlled by a group of people known as “bwanga” or copper eaters. It was these same people who controlled production and distribution of the copper cross currencies.

Also called a “handa”, these copper crosses was a form of currency up till the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were as valuable as ivory and served many other purposes than just a form of currency. Moreover they also bore specific symbolic meanings. Besides their use as a currency, the crosses served as ingots, a reserve commodity, and also as a symbol of dignity and power.

Katanga crosses were made in various sizes, about 8 inches across, and weighing about 1 kilogram. The first copper crosses appeared in the 13th century in the tombs of southern Katanga. They were later replaced by glass paste beads and cowries.

They also served as a means for paying matrimonial compensation. A woman was worth a large cross, but a small cross could be added too if she had really remarkable qualities! During the 20th century, the crosses were used as medicine and as indications of dignity.

When the province of Katanga became autonomy Katanga Crosses became the official national emblem. The National Bank of Katanga also issued coins that pictured small crosses as homage to its lost heritage.

Knowledge Base
Online: 9.30 am to 6.30 pm