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The History of "Bling"

Photo: iStockphoto

An Atlanta Post article by  R. Asmerom traces the cultural and historical origins of “bling” in the African-American community  — all the way back to Africa.  “Certain areas of West Africa have been known historically for gold mining, which was an enormously important component in some of the most sophisticated and complex commerce networks the world has ever known, networks that included huge portions of West Africa and extended across the Sahara,” says art historian Patrick McNaughton.  “Accounts of two famous and very large empires — Ghana and Mali — indicate that finely worked gold ornamentation played a large role at court.  The same is true for contemporary leaders in Akan culture groups, within the nation of Ghana.”  Dr. Alma Gottlieb, a professor of anthropology and African Studies, points out that bling sends a different signal now that we have the technology to make cheap copies: “[W]e can now make inexpensive copies of these items. It becomes potentially an avenue of appearing to engage in upward mobility through fashion, even if you’re not moving up in the class hierarchy, you can look the part.”