In many areas of Africa, swords, knives, axes and other bladed weapons have become accoutrements of men’s personal and family prestige. During public activities, a man held the weapon, displayed it in his waist garment or hung it over his shoulder.
Although these objects originated from modest, practical models, they have often become elevated, as with this example, to the status of an objet d’art. This elegant blade, whose form suggests a bird head, is noteworthy for its subtle curves. The handle shows a final refinement in the wire-wrapped detail, and this is an exceptional example of this sought-after form.
The blade evokes the head of a hornbill, an animal admired for its persistence and intelligence. Such knives were sometimes used as an exchange between families arranging marriages.
Weapons such as this one are often termed “throwing knives.” When thrown by an experienced handler in a low, horizontally spinning manner, the missile can be deadly to man or beast.
ETHNIC GROUP/ CULTURE
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