Stealing Gold


Custom regarding gold


Saran Kaba grew up in Gabon. Her family is mostly from Gabon and Guinea, and strongly identify with Mandingo culture which is prevalent throughout the region. Saran immigrated to the United States in 2014, where she now lives and studies at the University of Southern California.

Original Script:

“Okay, I mean you are not allowed to steal in general, but like, if you steal gold in my culture, like, bad things will happen to you. You become, uhh, unfortunate for the rest of your life. Like, what my mom told me is that gold is, gold is like a metal that comes from the ground and water, and that earth, and everything related to water is related with, like, spirits. So, if you steal gold, that means that you steal something spiritual, and yeah it will just lead to like, everything bad, so that’s that. Whenever I say spirits… it’s a lot of things. It’s like, just umm, it’s just different… first of all like bad energy. But also it’s like people giving bad luck to you. Also what else, like, people from the dead like, ghosts, kind of haunting you.”

Informant’s Background Knowledge and Relationship with this Piece:

Saran’s mom taught her about this. She seemed reluctant to mention any details, but she did briefly state that somebody in her family had stolen gold, and that that was viewed as very bad. She couldn’t think of any reason for why stealing gold might be seen in such a drastically negative light.

Thoughts About the Piece:

Gold is a precious metal. Somebody’s most valuable item might be a gold item, or perhaps somebody saved some money in gold. Gold items might also be sentimental, such as wedding rings. Perhaps for these reasons, stealing gold is held as a much worse offense than stealing any other item.