The misconception about the use of cowrie in our local parlance has always been loud. Most people, especially Africans, ascribe so many negativity as far as its usage is concerned. How well do you know the value placed on cowrie known in Eʋe as Hotsui?
Cowrie is a small shell-like object that is mostly found at the sea shore. It has an oval shape and at the middle, the shell is divided into two halves. In Africa, the cowrie represents the symbol of culture and tradition since most cults or fetish priests use it.
Sometimes during divination, some priests depend on it to seek answers from their gods. It is in this vein that most people ascribe so many ill motives to the object. In Ghana specifically, most people see the cowrie or hotsui to be fetish. One cannot walk about with it as a necklace without finger-pointing and all sorts of innuendos.
In terms of monetary value, it is no fluke that the object was used in the exchange of goods and services in the past. Before the arrival of the Europeans to the then Gold Coast, our forebears had their own defined form of currency.
Even though it faded out as civilization engulfed the generality of the society, its symbolic feat is still seen on our currency today. The Ghanaian Cedis comes to mind. Sources say that from the 18th to 20th century, the cowrie gained grounds as the obvious currency amongst most West African countries.
Today, some fashion icons capitalize on its artistic impression and uniqueness to create designs that are everlasting. Bags, mats, dresses, hats and other beautiful hand-woven artifacts gain more attention with a touch of the cowrie.
What is more interesting is the fact that Rastafarians worldwide also adore the cowrie. They used it as accessories around their necks and on their wrist. The object is also seen in their dreadlocks.
Clearly, the cowrie cannot be just an instrument of voodooism as always viewed by christians or faith-based societies. There is nothing demonic and satanic about it. Predictably, it is God’s creation that should be seen for the value it conveys and not the other way round.
So, the next time you come across a cowrie or hotsui, be kind to it because nature’s influence always supersedes our personal resentments.