Mervyn Mitton

ZULU HISTORY AND WEAPONRY FROM 1879

286 posts in this topic

I never intended to make this a long, drawn out thread - but rather to add good items as they came-in. I have just purchased a small collection of early Zulu weapons and think that members will be interested in some of them.

The first is exceptionally rare - an Iklwa, or short stabbing spear - it has features that show it was intended to be carried by an important person. Possibly a chief , or Induna, even a member of the Royal House. Firstly, it has a blade 20 inches long (50cm) - but , overall, it is only 42 inches (107cm) - this makes it one of the longest blades I have seen - 18" or, 19" can be found, but even they are rare. The other distinguishing feature is the carving on the end of the shaft. Zulu spears normally have a flared end - stops the hand slipping off when it is covered in blood - but only those for important chiefs have this type of decoration. The point to remember is that the spear was used as a pointing instrument to direct warriors in battle - and, therefore, the blade and end, would help identify the carrier.

Age is always difficult to determine, but in this case I think we can safely say Zulu War of 1879 - or, possibly even earlier. The middle of the binding (see close-ups) was originally of cow's tail , this has either been damaged in battle ,or has worn - repairs have been made with fine quality brass and copper wire - probably from the Portuguese.

I will start with this one and continue in a day, or so, with another Iklwa and two fine fighting axes.

nice blade may I ask you whre can one obtain such a fine piece of history? I have a vendor at a flee market and he claims to have a few zulu spears but i am unsure of its authentication can u help me ?

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nice blade may I ask you whre can one obtain such a fine piece of history? I have a vendor at a flee market and he claims to have a few zulu spears but i am unsure of its authentication can u help me ?

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ID: 28   Posted (edited)

Hi - pazulu - welcome to GMIC . Strange to have someone from Texas using the name Zulu ? Have you visited here or, is it from the New Orleans Mardi Gras team (can't think what they call these groups) ? The majority of Zulu material in the US has been brought back as souvenirs and eventually goes on the market as genuine items - which of course, they are not. There are many genuine collectors, however.

My Profile page gives my email - however, on this one occasion I will give my web - don't like to do this on our threads as I am a member not acting as a shop. www.cathaymilitaria.co.za I warn you now, the genuine items are rare and expensive. Mervyn

Edited by Mervyn Mitton

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Hi - pazulu - welcome to GMIC . Strange to have someone from Texas using the name Zulu ? Have you visited here or, is it from the New Orleans Mardi Gras team (can't think what they call these groups) ? The majority of Zulu material in the US has been brought back as souvenirs and eventually goes on the market as genuine items - which of course, they are not. There are many genuine collectors, however.

My Profile page gives my email - however, on this one occasion I will give my web - don't like to do this on our threads as I am a member not acting as a shop. www.cathaymilitaria.co.za I warn you now, the genuine items are rare and expensive. Mervyn

thanks mervyn i sent u an email with questions after visiting your site

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Hi Mervyn , I collect old fishing tackle and a number of years ago I picked up a lot at auction that had these old spears included. I was wondering if you would have any ideas as to what they may be. I've taken a few pictures and any information is appreciated. Russ

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Hi - Russ. Firstly - welcome to GMIC, nice to have another ethnic collector. With this old post coming back-up I have just realised that I owe a reply to 'pazulu' - my sincere apologies.

Looking at your collection, I would say that they are all from East Africa - the original owner possibly lived there and put them together - I would date them to 1920/30's.

Starting with the one on the left, it could be from any one of a number of tribes - the small head is quite common and is a result of not having access to a lot of iron - unlike the Zulus in Natal.

Second - this is typical of many fish spears from East Africa - mostly tribes who live along the numerous lakes. The double ended barb beneath the spear head can help to capture the fish when first thrust -in and will hold a large fish when pushed right through.

Third from left is also a fishing spear - but more in the shape of a harpoon with the barbs forming part of the head. Again typical of East Africa - and you must remember that the lakes are so vast that there are really big fish and animals in them.

The last one looks like a Masai - or an associated tribe. The test will be, does the bottom end have a metal sheath for the last 18 inches (approx) and ending as a spike ? The Masai and their cousins are lion hunters and if the lion charges they stick the bottom end in the ground - direct the head at the charging lion - and pray !! Normally, they surround the lion and throw the spear.

Value wise - an old Masai spear in good condition, can fetch up to (approx) £70 ($100). The others about the same - perhaps a little less - although the fishing ones are good decorative items. Hope this helps.

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Mervyn thank you for all the great information. I always thought they were just tourist trinkets. I collect old fishing tackle and though they are rather cool looking items I will probably try to trade them of for additions to the collection. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Russ.

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Russ - fishing tackle, particularly the reels, have shown a great rise in price in recent years. Check with one of the London auction houses before selling. Unfortunately, I know little about fishing - however, I like fish, so send any spare over....

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Hi Russ,

Nice group of spears, the fishing spears, as identified by Mervyn, would fit well with your main collecting theme. My fising gear is only as old as me...oh wait...that could make them antiques! :blush:

Thanks for taking the time to post the spears and your fine collection of fishing gear as well.

Regards

Brian

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Hello Mervyn, I'm new here so please bear with me.

In 1893 King Lobengula presented 2 ceremonial spears to the first District Commissioner in Ft Victoria (now in Zimbabwe) as a bribe to allow his warriors to pass through that area in order to plunder Shona tribe folk. The DC didnt allow the request but nevertheless retained the spears which I now have. When I figure out how to post a photo of the spears here, I will (tomorrow) - but meantime these are the descriptions with dimensions.

Spear No 1 has the same blade profile as in your 1st posting - 34cms long tapered to a 4cms metal stock before reaching the braided wood shaft. The braiding is 24.5 cms long followed by 15.5cms of wood handle - then 3cms of braiding - then 53.5cms wood shaft - then 2cms braiding followed by 3,5 cms of wood shaft to the end of the spear. The shaft is tapered gradually to be larger at the end. Total length = 140.5cms.

Spear No 2 has the same shaped blade 22,5cms long with an iron stock 13cms long to the braided wooden shaft. The braid is 23cms long - then 2.5cms wood shaft - then 4cms braid - then 3.75cms shaft - then 2,25cms braid - then 46.5cms wood shaft - then 2,5cms braid - then 4,5cms wood shaft - then 0,75 braid - then 2,5cms wood shaft and finally 9cms of leather thong up to the end. Total length 136 cms.

The copper braiding on both these spears is unbelievably exquisite - I cannot imagine how it was done so prefectly.

These items should be with a collector - how do I find out what theyre worth and how does one go about selling them?

Many thanks,

Keith

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Keith - firstly , welcome to GMIC - I hope you enjoy it as much as we all seem to. Secondly - we need to see a picture of the two spears - if you have difficulty, and everyone does , then email the picture (see my profile for email) and I will post it for you.

There will be two problems - they are not Zulu, but rather from their first cousins, the Matabele , the other problem will be that the history is 'hearsay'. Are there any documents ? Mervyn

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Hello Keith,

As mervyn has alread said, "Welcome to the forum". I look forward to seeing the photos of the spears. I've always been interested in these artifacts, however, I've never had one in the collection, a couple of spear points though. This is "off topic" as they are not Zulu but I am very happy to see them offered for our viewing.

I think you will have to send your photos to another member, such as Mervyn, to post for you. Don't send them to me, I'd only cause them to get lost in cyber space. The internet, and computers in general for that matter, are all ancient Greek to me. I think the club rules state you need to have more posts before you can add photos, I may be wrong on that point as some changes were made a while back.

Thanks again for adding to this intertesting post (and I hope photos) and welcome aboard Keith.

Regards

Brian

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Keith - firstly , welcome to GMIC - I hope you enjoy it as much as we all seem to. Secondly - we need to see a picture of the two spears - if you have difficulty, and everyone does , then email the picture (see my profile for email) and I will post it for you.

There will be two problems - they are not Zulu, but rather from their first cousins, the Matabele , the other problem will be that the history is 'hearsay'. Are there any documents ? Mervyn

Hi, My wife informs me that she has lent our camera to my daughter who is on holiday for a week! lol. Will make another plan re the photos. The history behind these spears however, is not all hearsay - I am able to get proof that the 1st DC of Vt Vic was the great grandfather of the person who sold me the spears - how his great g/father obtained them fits in with the historical circumstances of the time and place is documented in a book that he gave to me - as well as the name of the DC. There will be a bit of homework for me to do to get this all authenticated but nevertheless - I believe it can be done. Have noted the problem of posting photos as a new member - thanks for mentioning! Will be in touch soon. Cheers, Keith

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Hi Keith,

I would look into getting the supporting documentation as soon as possible. I've had incidents in the past where I didn't make an effort soon enough and lost the chance as the person I should have contacted passed away and the documentation ended up in the local land fill because none of the surviving family members new what it was when they were cleaning out the house.

Regards

Brian

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Hi Keith,

I would look into getting the supporting documentation as soon as possible. I've had incidents in the past where I didn't make an effort soon enough and lost the chance as the person I should have contacted passed away and the documentation ended up in the local land fill because none of the surviving family members new what it was when they were cleaning out the house.

Regards

Brian

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Brian - you are so right. More is the pity that the context could get deprived from being recorded in history. I know about what you are telling me - am writing a historical book and a few who could have authenticated have sadly left the planet. Will attend to this asap. Cheers - Keith

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Keith - what is your book going to cover - will it be Sth. African history ? Let me know if you need any ref. material - depending on the subject, may be able to help.

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Keith - what is your book going to cover - will it be Sth. African history ? Let me know if you need any ref. material - depending on the subject, may be able to help.

Thanks Mervyn for your interest. As a newcomer to GMI, I'm a bit worried about being "off topic" but here goes - I served in the Rhodesian SAS during the bush war. My book (which is also a reference book) is about the Viscount disasters in which 107 holidaymakers and crew were killed by terrorists who brought down these aircraft with SAM 7 missiles. It covers the actual air crashes to how the perpetrators were located and dealt with. Any photographs, pics of victims, eulogies etc - are very welcome (I do have many - including those taken by Scope magazine). The book title is "VISCOUNT DOWN" - manuscript should be completed end April 2010.

Pics of the spears will be ready Wednesday/Thursday this week. Will ask you to post them here for me (please).

Salaams

Keith

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Hi milton I still have not received a reply from you regarding the zulu merchandise still searching for an ishanglu

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The following spear pictures are posted on behalf of Member - Keith Nell. They are a little dark - I have shaped them and tried to lighten as much as possible.

Keith will continue with descriptions.

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Thanks Mervyn for posting these pics- agreed the images are too dark and the shaft on image 1 isn't irregular as it appears -

Seems like the situation is "who wants to buy a cheap camera cheap"? - wasn't mine - lol

Will provide info on spears asap. Don't associate with the camera. :-)

Kind regards

Keith

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