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Tom - I have no idea where your longer spear comes from - with a join at the head , it wouldn't have the strength of the Zulu one. The other thing to compare is how the Zulu's worked the head from either side - whilst holding it in the tongs. This always leaves a spine in the centre. What other ethnic treasures are you hiding away ??

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Amongst my Zulu artefacts is an unusual, and possibly unique, item. It is a Zulu copy of a British sword. It has on overall length of 615 mm and is apparently made from a hay-rake tine, the hay-rake being the large type towed behind a farmer's tractor. The scabbard is made of two crudely tanned pieces of leather sown together by thin wire.

This sword was given to me in about 1945 by a South African Police Sergeant, who was the husband of our family's Zulu nanny. It was confiscated after a Zulu faction fight in the Tugela River valley near Weenen in Natal. Such faction fights continue to this day, although the weapons used now include automatic rifles, and they can be bloody affairs.

I would be interested to know if anyone has seen a similar sword.

Brett

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Brett - with your wealth of knowledge on KwaZulu Natal, I was hoping you would be able to post something. Like the 'pointed' bayonet, the Zulus feared and respected the capabilities of the British swords - and tried to copy them. Yours is not the first I have seen, but is probably the most accurate in appearance , with the guard. We had one a few years ago that was identical to an Iklwa blade - but was 30 inches long ( 75cm) - the grip

was an old Victorian chisel handle. I have also seen pointed metal fence posts turned into a sword - of sorts ! Value wise, it has to be high - there can't be many left after all these years. Interestingly, the one we had, also was in a well sewn leather sheath.

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Probably well over 100 years old, this is a Zulu meat platter. Traditionally, in a larger Kraal, the Induna or, chief, will be served his food separately - with perhaps his favourite wives serving him. However, for everyone else it was communal eating and meat was put into a platter - such as this - and you cut off as you needed. They didn't have potatoes, but there were plenty of greens and veggies. (Sth. African 'slang' for vegetables !) They also make a very good stew. Look at the bottom of this platter - you can see the years of knives cutting into it. The other pictures show the reverse and the traditional ' amazumpa' carving. This is called the 'wart' design - however, Zulus are part of the Nguni people who came down through Africa, and eventually settled in Natal (now called KwaZulu Natal). This wart design is probably something they picked-up hundreds of years ago and have forgotten it's origins. Many experts believe today, that it came originally from West Africa and represents the crocodile skin. Until quite recently many West Africans had this design as a facial tattoo.

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Mervyn

Many thanks for the additional information on Zulu swords. I have always thought that the one I have was more for show than for use as a functional weapon.

By the way, the man who gave it to me was Sergeant Obed Buthelezi. I don't know how closely related he was to Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, but both represent a noble Zulu clan. The Chief is descended from a participant in the Battle of Isandlwana and acted in the film, "Zulu", so he will have been seen on film by the large number of fans of this film. His role in modern South African politics is more significant, but is probably less widely known.

Regards

Brett

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I think this print from the Illustrated London News of 1879 is interesting, in that it shows the appearance of the Zulus at that time and how their dress has been changed by contact with the British troops. Most of the Zulus are guides and scouts and they appear to have captured a 'spy' - who is being questioned by Gen. Newdigate. Whereas Zulu warriors carried their spears and knobkerrie in the shield hand - these are shown with quivers on their backs to hold the spears. There are two umbumbululu shields shown and several are carrying rifles - or, muskets.

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I'm assuming that there is a continuing interest in this historical Zulu equipment ? I am showing to day, examples of the everyday dress for a Zulu warrior of the 1870's period. They only wore skins - not having invented weaving - one of the reasons that today you often see a variation of the Nigerian gowns being worn. Although for Zulu ceremonies the King and his prime minister, will wear leopard skins.

Basically, the problem was to cover the private parts and the rear. For the front many items could be used - grass, skins,tails, - anything that would flex with the body and drape over 'things' when they sat or, squatted. This item of dress is called a NENE. For the rear it was much simpler - a skin - usually a calf, or, sometimes a goat - would be tied around the waist - calf was preferred , being more supple. This is called a BESHU.

The skins used often denoted the rank of the wearer - any spotted cat was reserved for Indunas or, chiefs. Leopards are for Royalty and Lion for the King. These major skins are draped or, hung from the shoulders. A Zulu always carries either his spear (now 'frowned' on) or a stick - provisions are made for these as 'traditional weapons'.

This first Nene is made-up of twelve wild cat tails. These are not household cats gone wild, but the real wild cats. Very ferocious, they are becoming rare - one of the major problems with so many people wanting to wear skins. The two examples I am showing are for older, senior people - so, they are larger andcover more. The young warriors used to cut back the Nene until it barely covered anything and in battle would shake their 'personal equipment' at the enemy - all part of the posturing to intimidate your enemy. We used to wear high hats and striped trousers to look taller.

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A different style of Nene - and probably for a more senior chief. The trim at the top is Civet cat - being spotted it was reserved for chiefs. The long strips are for a Genet. Although this animal - about the size of a small fox, looks like a cat - it is in fact the largest member of the Mongoose family. Very destructive to other smaller animals and birds.

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By great co-incidence this photo appeared in the Durban Sunday Tribune, this morning. The Amakhosi are all traditional chiefs and their dress - shown here - exactly shows what we were talking about. The Induna in the middle is actually wearing a Nene made from Wild Cat tails. Note how the leopard skins are slung from the shoulder. This is not a common sight today and we are lucky it has come at the this time.

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Its threads like this that makes GMIC the most diverse military interest club on-line

I just spent an hour reading all the posts - great knowledge and incredible items!

Thanks Helen, Mervyn and all the other contributors.

Hardy

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Continuing our theme of historical Zulu pieces, I am posting pictures of two ITHUNGAS or, milk pails. These are hand carved and the insides are cut out by hand - a long job from a solid block of wood. They are highly collected today - being so decorative, and every one is different. You will see the amazumpas, which we mentioned earlier.

They could be used for milking cows or, goats and the milker - usually a young girl, would sit with the Ithunga between her legs - in the kraal, there would be a larger version for all the milk to be kept in. They stand about 15 inches high (38cm) and are approx. 100 years old.

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All three, but particularly the last one, look like they could/would be fitted with some type of carrying strap. Is this the case?

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No, the one has little grips, one has a handles and the bottom one, they have carved a section out to provide grips. These are very collectable - the American tourists , particularly, like to take them home - they probably look good with a dried flower arrangement.

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A difficult item to photograph and to fit as a post. This is the central support pole for the largest Zulu war shield - the ISHILUNGU. This shield - made from the Royal Nguni bulls' hides , can be as high as 5' 5'' ( 165cm). They were colour coded for each particular Impi - or, regiment. In fact, the Ishilungu was so heavy, that when fighting at a distance from their base, they carried the smaller Umbumbululu.

One of the difficulties with a big item like this, is how do you store it ? What they used to do , was to take out this strengthening stick - roll up the hide and store it in the thatched roof of the hut. This lead to a very high damage rate, since rats, mice, cockroaches and other Nunnu's (Zulu for insects) would eat the hairs off and also, the leather. The result is that historical shields are one of the rarest items. The sticks - since they are separated from the shield - are highly sought after and are valuable. This one has two bands of amazumpas and is 59 inches overall (151cm)

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