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Gallery Ezakwantu

African Art  - Art Africain - Tribal Art -  菲洲艺术 - Afrikanische Kunst

 

Central and Southern African Tribal Art

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African Weapons

Congo - Rwanda - Burundi

Armes de Combat du Congo - Kongowaffen - Afrikanische Waffen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boa Sword - Congo - DRC

 

Circa 1900

 

 

 

 

This example is detailed with four open circles, fine line decoration and bound with African wrought copper wire / binding.  The sword is quite large at + - 60 cms,  or + - 23.5 inches.

 

 

    

 

Boa Elders - Zagourski

 

The Boa live West of the Zande and Abarambo tribes in the DRC (Belgium Congo). They considered these weapons as status objects and currency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Execution / Status Ngulu Sword

 

Ngombe / Doko

 

Belgium Congo - Circa 1900

 

 

     

 

Ngala Warriors and Tribal People


The first Europeans travelling up the Congo river were impressed by Ngombe cult weapons,  mistakenly attributing them to the Bangala or Ngala, people whom they had met along the river. The Ngombe themselves lived deep in the forest and had in fact manufactured such 'execution swords' as trade. Both the Ngombe and Doko used the ngulu during the 20th century. The knife had transformed itself into a ceremonial dance blade. The reason for this was that by 1900 the Belgium's had forbidden executions, as well as cannibalism, equally widespread. Regardless, the Ngombe continued to use the cult knife in their "Likbeti" dance, which often lasted two days. At the end of the dance a goat was sacrificed for the feast, with a single stroke from the back side of the blade. This goat was consumed, just as the limbs and torso of victims were in former times.

 

 

 

 

Our sword or knife, was rediscovered in Australia during the early 90's. By 1900, ngulu had become a powerful status symbol and as such, important authorative objects. Both the weight and power of the blades function had decreased, while the art form enhanced with the addition of small projections.

 

 

 

Above; a Mongo chief in full regalia, holding a ngulu, closely resembling ours. 

 

Werner Fisher & Manfred A. Zirngibl wrote in their book Afrikanische Waffen: This design was selected for cult and execution knives. A knife was created which symbolized the inexorableness on the judgment and execution. This execution knife became a symbol of power and, in a few variations became a ceremonial knife for tribal chieftains. At executions, the condemned man was tied to the ground with ropes and poles. His head was fastened with leather straps to a bent tree branch. In this way it was ensured that the man’s neck would remain stretched. After the decapitation, the head would be automatically catapulted far away.”

 

 

 

 

These drawings show ngulu execution swords at various executions. The back side of the blade was used as a machete for cutting. It was believed a person remained "aware" for some time after decapitation. As a result, the deceased final sensual experience was flying through the air to meet his or her ancestors. Executions were not judicial events meant for murders or criminals. They were events carried out for ceremonial purposes and the chosen were invariably slaves.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ngbandi Spear

 

Democratic Republic of the Congo - DRC

 

 

 

 

The Ngbandi live along the upper Ubangi River in the Congo DRC and southern Central African Republic. Their warriors boast of up to 20 different spear types of which each has a specified name. The image above includes quite a number of examples, but not an important Ndimba.

 

 

 

 

The Ngbandi call this stabbing spear an Ndimba. Ndimba were owned by rich men of high standing and stature. Graceful to the eye, these powerful - formable spears were made by master craftsman. Large balanced sharp blades made it easy to penetrate the enemy shield. This spear dates to 1900 or before. From neck to point, the spear blade itself measures + - 73 cms with an overall length of + - 153 cms, or  + - 29 and 60 inches respectively.

 

 

      

 

                  De Ngbandi naar het leven geschetst - 1928 -Page 7                Dodelijk Mooi - Wapens Uit Centraal-Afrika - Page 165

 

At a glance, these images offer visual evidence as to why Ndimba spears outclassed those used by most other warriors. Ndimba were were the property of the powerful and mighty.

 

 

 

 

The central wooden grip was called the le kongo or nyo kongo and the iron banding was kúnga. The powerful blade and windings were kept highly polished by the spears illustrious owners.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mangbetu Authorative Knife

 

Early 20th Century

 

 

 

 

The drawing to the left and right show late 19th century depictions of Munza, the king of the Mangbetu. Seated on his thrown, he holds a similar knife to ours as a symbol of power and authority. The centre image shows a musician with a related knife to his right.

 

 

 

 

This Mangbetu authorative knife was originally used as a weapon of war and an agricultural implement. They later developed into luxury items to provide symbols of status. There are two uncommon sections of wirework in the examples mid section.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ngombe / Poto Sword - Congo

 

Circa 1940  

 

 

 

 

Ngombe swords were reserved for dignitaries as a sign of distinction. The Ngombe, Doko and Poto people all used these knives or swords.

 

 

 

 

During the construction of  an Ngombe sword, powerful beauty was achieved at the expense of function. This symmetric blade displays heavily detailed incised decoration - whilst a portion of the wooden hilt was copper plated. The skin of an animal covering the hilt was said to contain substances to give the object magical powers.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ba Salampasu Sword

 

Early 20th Century

 

 

 

 

The Salampasu live between the Kasai and Lulua rivers in the Congo DRC. They were feared by their neighbours who regard them as cannibals to this day. Visit our Salampasu mask page to learn more about their fierce traditions.

 

 

 

 

This old Salampasu sword was purchased from the daughter of Bob Ivy. Ivy was a renowned taxidermist who with his daughter Marion, assembled an important African art collection from the 1940's. Many important Ivy pieces were offered at  Sotheby's Egon Guenther Family sale, 18-11-2000 and again in Paris the 5-12-2007.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mongo Kundu-Konda Sword

 

Congo - DRC - Circa 1900

 

 

 

 

Kundu - Mongo - Konda - Ekonda swords as worn or displayed in the late 19th Century

 

 

 

 

The old powerful Mongo related sword and scabbard is from the Konda or Kundu tribe.

 

 

 

 

Ekonda warrior near lake Tumba  - Circa 1957

 

 

 

 

The blade of the sword is incised with detailed iron work and the scabbard and hilt of the dagger are heavily decorated with worn brass tacks.

 

 

 

 

 

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Konda Cult Knife - Congo - DRC

 

Circa 1920

 

 

 

 

This fantastic Konda cult knife was used for ceremonial purposes. Neighbouring Mongo groups such as the Kundu and Saka also used related complicated swords.  Bands of old beaten iron and copper wire spiral the wooden hilt.

      

 

 

 

The centre of the blade exhibits fine incised decoration. This dramatic object includes a repair to an inverted heart shaped finial. The native repair was undertaken by a master craftsman who enhanced the collectability value of this fantastic art form.

 

 

 

 

 

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Luba Sword

 

Congo - DRC

 

 

 

 

It is said that Luba sculpture is the most graceful in Africa. Harmony and elegance characterize Luba weapons.

 

 

 

 

This classic old Luba sword has organic white and red pigment on the blade, so was likely used in divination by a diviner.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ceremonial Dance Hoe

 

Western Zambia

 

 

 

 

Miniature hoes called Katemokavamwali were danced at Chokwe, Luchazi, Luvale and Mbunda female initiations called mwali in Angola, DRC - Congo and Western Zambia. Katemokavamwali literally means the hoe of the female initiate. Katemo is hoe, vamwali is of (va) women (mwali) or female initiate... so; Katemo ka vamwali. Katemokavamwali also dances at boys Mukanda ceremonies.

 

 

 

                          Ila Speaking Girl with a Katemokavamwali - Zambia                                   Initialled Underside

 

The wooden blades underside has the initials IVD or MD - carved into a backdrop of a larger "D".

 

 

 

 

Blades were carved from wood or forged by an ironsmith. This example has a wooden blade, was once part of the Southern African Heinz Papen Collection and most likely dates to 1900 -1920.

 

 

 

Another - Mbunda or Related

 

 

 

 

 

This second example boasts a five ringed ivory laminated upper hilt and blade.

 

 

 

 

 

By 1900 and perhaps before, there was an established tradition of laminating flywhisks, staffs and Chimbuya axes with sections of ivory. This is one of only two ivory inlayed Katemokavamwali known to us, both early collected.

 

 

 

 

 

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Click this image to Visit our Arrow Page

 

Angola - DRC Congo - Zambia

 

Chokwe - Luchazi - Lwena - Luvale - Mbunda Arrows

 

 

 

 

Hunting Arrows of the Chokwe

 

 

 

 

 

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Throwing Blades of Central Africa

 

 

 

Many of the Central African weapons shown are easily located from the map above. Click the thumbnail above to view.

 

 

 

 

 

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Galerie Ezakwantu

Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 

 

Central and Southern African Tribal Art

 

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