Jump to content
Gentleman's Military Interest Club

Recommended Posts

Mike - you are lucky to have this early beadwork, it is now very collectable all over the World and can fetch high prices - although, I don't think the condition of these would be so valuable. The tradition of beads started with the early traders and it is possible to date them from the type of bead - many of the small beads were made in Austria. The girls would weave neck collars, arm bands etc. as gifts to their boy friends and the different colours of beads and the pattern, actually tell a small story. Amongst these you have neck bands , waist bands or, girdles and the one with the two small panels, is for a young girl - and that is all she would have worn. We have a couple of boxes of different items and I will try to have some photographed to help you identify yours. However, I stress, yours are early and fragile - only later did they have string - the first ones had strands from the Ilala palm - dried and rolled thinly to make a string.

Thankyou for sending these photos - and hopefully, Helen may also have some early examples. I have mentioned that Zulus are probably the most important tribe in Africa - their weaponry has become more sought after then even the Pacific rim Islands and yet, the items we are discussing are so rare that few Zulus have even seen them - or, unfortunately - even know of them. Such is progress !!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mike - I forgot to say what each item is -

23. Neck Band - you see a lot of early pictures showing warriors wearing them. May have been on an ankle, but more subject to damage.

23. Man's collar - with a message in the colours (and no - I can't read it)

24. Waist band - I have seen pictures of men wearing and girls. The Zulus like to adorn themselves and full warrior regalia is very impressive.

25. Girl's - or, young woman's waist band.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you google "Zulu" and get modern images of "ethnic dress" some of the women are wearing what must amount to several stone weight worth of beads! Literally covered from knee to thigh, up both arms and around the body as well. Makes the old story about the Dutch buying Manhattan for beads a little more credible.

Same thing happens here with Native American dance troupes, who go all out to 'out-wow' each other with more, bigger and shinier costumes. sadly, again, many of these younger people have probably not seen the originals from which their own costumes have evolved which are, to my eyes, far more attractive. But, time marches on. So far I haven't seen any beadwork with iPods worked into the design, but it's only a matter of time. I recall buying a traditional cotton blanket from a Fulani craftsman in Nigeria in 1980 and only years later figuring out that the 'runic' looking designs woven into the border were the letters representing the names of the major political parties in the 1980 elections: "PRP" for the People's Redemption Party and so on! And this from a man who was almost certainly illiterate. Weird world we live in.

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mike - I forgot to say what each item is -

23. Neck Band - you see a lot of early pictures showing warriors wearing them. May have been on an ankle, but more subject to damage.

23. Man's collar - with a message in the colours (and no - I can't read it)

24. Waist band - I have seen pictures of men wearing and girls. The Zulus like to adorn themselves and full warrior regalia is very impressive.

25. Girl's - or, young woman's waist band.

Mervyn, thanks for your reply to my posts. The first one, #23 may have been a bit misleading. I think this could have only been an ankle or arm bracelet. I have two of them, matching. the are approx 4.5 inches deep and when uncurled are approx 9 inches long. They have loops of fibre on one side at the end and double beads the other side, I presume to slip into the loops to keep them around the arm/leg.

At one time there was a Knobkerrie that came with the collection, however it was lost years ago in a house move.

I have since found out that from my older sister that in fact our Aunt was in Natal before the Boar War from about 1886 to the late 1890's and returned to England just before the start of the war.

Cheers, Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I'll pick your brain a little, too :rolleyes:

Here's 2/3 of my African collection:

First an ilkwa. Is that the same as an assegai?

It's 54 1/4 in. overall.

The exposed part of the head is 11 1/4.

The butt has a rudimentary knob

The wrapping appears to be some type of cord impregnate/coated with a varnishlike substance.

I have another spearhead about twice this size buried in one of my piles of detritus. If I manage to excavate it I'll post it.

Not Zulu, but African. I imagine it's either ceremonial or for the tourist trade, as the edges are blunt.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hi Tom,

Mervyn will probably know more about the spear but the dagger is of the 'ikul' type of the Kuba (Bushong) people, (pre-colonial state in what is now DR Congo). See here: PRM Ikul

I believe it is more a status/identity symbol than a functional weapon.

Helen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi - Tom. I agree with Helen - without looking at her reply, I had decided Congo region - just has that look. I think it is ceremonial - or, show and could also have been pole mounted. Look at the short handgrip and the finial stud at the top, which could easily fit into a collar.

The spear is Zulu - or, I will confirm when you post a picture of the head, where it becomes the neck. When I posted an earlier neck collar, I also showed an early drawing of Zulu smiths and they used tongs to hold the head whilst they beat out the shape.

There are sixteen patterns of Zulu spears - some people hold to 25 - but, I think that starts to get a bit 'picky'. Only two are military - the others are in different shapes and weights to deal with different animals and birds. I will be posting - another time , different types of spears. When a Zulu warrior went into battle , he carried a shield - either an Umbumbulu - as I illustrated some postings ago, two throwing spears - an Iklwa, or short stabbing spear and, very often a knobkerry or an axe - if he was a chief (Induna). The spear you have - and an assegai is a generic name for a spear - is called an Isiphapha (isi papa) and is the second of the military ones. Both of these names ar onamatopaeic (Helen, did I get the spelling right ?) - which means the name is as the sound. An

Iklwa is named after the sound it makes as it is pulled from the body - the Isiphapha is a throwing spear and is given a twist as it's thrown. The sound is ' pha pha pha' There are three possible bindings - copper and brass (obtained from the Portuguese in Delgoa Bay), woven strips from the Ilala Palm and, the end of a cow's tail - pulled straight on like a condom. Over time the leather sets as if it is metal - tap yours and you will see what I mean.

Value wise - yours has the shaft a little distorted from being left in one position - however, probably around 100-120 years old and the end of the shaft still has the carved knob to pull it from bodies - so, I would say Rands 3000 to R3500 (?240 $360)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mike,if it has the three bead fasteners, then yes, probably for arm or ankles. Zulus like adornment, but on the ankle it would be very liable to being caught on things. Those dates tie in very well - didn't she leave anything good - like an axe ???

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

didn't she leave anything good - like an axe ???

Mervyn, unfortunatly no. Being a woman I guess she was only interested in pretty things and not a lot else (sorry Helen if I'm being sexist, but back then I think this was the case).

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi - Tom. I agree with Helen - without looking at her reply, I had decided Congo region - just has that look. I think it is ceremonial - or, show and could also have been pole mounted. Look at the short handgrip and the finial stud at the top, which could easily fit into a collar.

The spear is Zulu - or, I will confirm when you post a picture of the head, where it becomes the neck. When I posted an earlier neck collar, I also showed an early drawing of Zulu smiths and they used tongs to hold the head whilst they beat out the shape.

There are sixteen patterns of Zulu spears - some people hold to 25 - but, I think that starts to get a bit 'picky'. Only two are military - the others are in different shapes and weights to deal with different animals and birds. I will be posting - another time , different types of spears. When a Zulu warrior went into battle , he carried a shield - either an Umbumbulu - as I illustrated some postings ago, two throwing spears - an Iklwa, or short stabbing spear and, very often a knobkerry or an axe - if he was a chief (Induna). The spear you have - and an assegai is a generic name for a spear - is called an Isiphapha (isi papa) and is the second of the military ones. Both of these names ar onamatopaeic (Helen, did I get the spelling right ?) - which means the name is as the sound. An

Iklwa is named after the sound it makes as it is pulled from the body - the Isiphapha is a throwing spear and is given a twist as it's thrown. The sound is ' pha pha pha' There are three possible bindings - copper and brass (obtained from the Portuguese in Delgoa Bay), woven strips from the Ilala Palm and, the end of a cow's tail - pulled straight on like a condom. Over time the leather sets as if it is metal - tap yours and you will see what I mean.

Value wise - yours has the shaft a little distorted from being left in one position - however, probably around 100-120 years old and the end of the shaft still has the carved knob to pull it from bodies - so, I would say Rands 3000 to R3500 (?240 $360)

Very, erm, descriptive names :speechless1: Here's a closeup of the head

and a close-closeup of what might be tong marks (the Chinese connection :cheeky: )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

wow- I LOVE this thread. I've learned more about the Zulus in the past fortnight than I did over the past 40 years!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes - an old Zulu Isiphapha - with cow tail binding. Use a little furniture polish on the shaft - when handled regularly, they get a nice sheen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the time Shaka claimed leadership of the Zulu throne, the tribe numbered in the hundreds. Culturally, the tribe was hardly different from any of the other surrounding tribal groups. Starting with Shaka, the tribe began growing through warfare and assimilation of subjugated neighboring tribes. The process of conquering and assimilating tribes into the "Zulu" state continued after Shaka's death, and by successive Zulu kings until the 1879 War.

During the initial period of Zulu expansion, neighboring tribes in southern Africa realized relatively quickly they would soon face either subjugation by the ever-expanding Zulu state, or they could attempt to move somewhere else, or if uninhabited land was not available, by attacking smaller neighbors and displacing them. One faction of the Zulu, led by Mzilikazi, split off from the main tribe, and began moving northwards, eventually settling north of the Limpopo River in what is now Zimbabwe. The area had already been settled by the Shona tribe, but the two groups developed a tentative relationship with each other. Both raided smaller tribes north of the Zambezi for their cattle, to establish tributary tribes that provided salt, ivory, copper, etc.

It is important to note that assimilation of tribal groups did not happen overnight. Unlike meals which an organism can ingest and process in a brief period of time, assimilating people who speak slightly different languages, have different tribal customs, and material cultures which may be similar but not completely identical, takes time. Particularly in an age when there are no forms of mass communications that can be used to establish "uniform ways" of doing things. The United States for example is a "melting pot" country that has existed for well over two hundred years, and has a wide range of sub-cultures, dialects, and ethnic diversity that has not been obliterated by a long shot.e expansion of the Zulu/Matabele/Ngoni and related tribal groups resulted in the "Mfecane" or time of troubles in southern Africa.

With regards to the "Zulu" the tribe was never a large block of people with standardized customs, items used in daily life or war, etc. The sheer numbers of people assimilated into the tribe between 1815-1879, was too fast, involved too many diverse groups, that complete and total assimilation never happened. The number of spears that Mervyn mentions is not the result of special purpose items, but the persistence of cultural items from peoples subjugated and forced into the "Zulu" tribe.

The point of this, is there are many tribal groups south of the Zambezi River (the border between modern day Zambia and Zimbabwe") prior to circa 1880, that were culturally and linguistically, very similar. In many situations, ethnic associations are often based on where an item comes from or was found because far too often items are very similar if not identical when compared to other tribal groups in the same region.

Anthropologist (and archaeologists) fall into what I call the "stamp collector" mind set. Everything has to have a special label or name, even though it might look almost identical to something else. The "typological mindset" common to anthropologist and archaeologists, results in special terms or categories being used or claimed that the person who made or used the item never used or saw a difference between the items. For example, a common screwdriver with a wood handle, another with a plastic handle, and a third made all of metal would be divided into three categories by some of them. (Helen....talk to an archaeologist and you'll know how true this is...).

During the pre-colonial era traditional African cultures made iron through a laborious process, and metal for tools and weapons was expensive. Spear heads were relatively small. If you think about it, a one-inch (25.6mm) knife blade is enough to kill a person. A large animal can be brought down by making it bleed, keeping it moving/running, and letting it drop from exhaustion. A typical villager would not need and probably could not afford more than one or two spear heads at most, supplemented by wooden items (clubs), etc. He'd need an axe or adze to fell trees and make firewood, but other than that, the amount of metal object he'd have owned would have been very small.

Making and selling items to tourists is a way people living in small villages, or away from urban centers where there are better paying jobs or other ways of making a living, to get hard cash. Well into the 20th century, American Indians made blankets, beaded items, pots and other items associated with "Indians" for sale to European-Americans (aka "whites") and anyone else with cash, and looking to take home souvenirs. Even Hispanics got into the act of selling to whites, playing on ignorance and selling "Indian" stuff made by someone else, sometimes not even made in the US. Cultural revivals can play havoc with the perception of traditional cultures and societies. Anyone familiar with the Victorian era and rebirth of Scottish pride is well aware of the creation of clan tartans, new blades being married to old Claymore and Highland basket hilts (that had the blades removed almost a century earlier), and so on. The same thing has happened in Africa and elsewhere.

African items have been sold to tourists since the start of the Colonial era, and over the last century has been a major component of the "art" market. Peter's point about the rug he bought in 1980, is an important one. People making things for the tourist market, may have no idea of what the traditional culture was like, how things should have been made, but instead, interpret the past as they see fit, or imagine it to have been. IMO, if an item wasn't made before the imposition of western(ized) colonial governments on traditional cultures, the context of items acquired during the "tourist era" are not truly representative of a "traditional culture" at all.

Les

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes - an old Zulu Isiphapha - with cow tail binding. Use a little furniture polish on the shaft - when handled regularly, they get a nice sheen.

Thanks, Mervyn. It's always a pleasure reading your postings. I've had an interest in the areas you cover for quite a while but was too lazy to do much research. You've brought it to my door.

I wonder if my Isiphapha's been washed :o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'Washed' - I always work on the basis that every old spear, has probably been 'washed' about ten times. Zulus are warriors - the women do the work - they do the fighting !! Because , in Victorian times the men would not do manual labour, we brough indentured Indian labourers into Natal to do the menial work - being the fine workers they are - they now own most of Natal !!

Les - I can only agree with your acute observations. When Shaka started his 'expansion' policy, the first thing that happened was that the clans and tribes near him moved away - and set-up what is now Swaziland. The further South the Impis went , the more they came into contact with the Xhosa's.

Also a warlike tribe, they are traditional enemies of the Zulus. However, they could not match them in those early days and just merged in and became 'Zulus'. The ruling party in S.A. is the African National Congress (A.N.C.) and their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, are Xhosas. The result has been in recent years that the original central/Northern Natal districts where the King came from are Inkatha Freedom Party (I.F.P.) and the Southern areas are strongly A.N.C. - this has led to a lot of problems. Our new President - Jacob Zuma - is the first Zulu President and we are hopeful that will settle things down.

Just an historical observation - the word, INKATHA , is actually the throne that the king traditionally sits on to make judgements. When a new King comes to the throne - every clan and village will cut reeds and send them to the King - this shows their acceptance and respect. The reeds are then woven into a giant rope - as thick as a man - and then this is coiled to about five feet high (150cm) .

Edited by Mervyn Mitton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Continuing this post of old items from Helen. These are examples of the famous Knobkerry - known in Zulu as an IWISA (e wee sa) - they are actually quite rare as they are in regular use and just haven't survived. The top one is an Iwisa - the one with a smaller head ia an IQUBANGA. This is more ceremonial and would be carried by a chief - or, Induna - when he was at home in his Kraal - and 'off duty' !

Many different woods could be used - Ironwood was always popular - very heavy. Very often they will have copper and brass at intervals along the shaft and some of the 'Kraal' ones have snuff boxes in the knob. I think we have one in the shop, ifso I will post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

post-6209-1245678066_thumb.jpg

Helen showed a good rest - these are a few more - they allowed the men to show great variety in the carving. Probably all are around the 100 year old group.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Those would make for a serious pillow fight :speechless1:

The Induna's iwisa reminds me of a weighted Victorian cane I once had. Even with the small knob a fearsome weapon.

I borrowed the front end loader from work today and found the other spear head. No tong marks and it looks like it was made in two pieces, the blade being attached to the shaft.

post-252-1245715913_thumb.jpg

Interestingly enough, I got it from Alaska.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×