Tribal African weapons reflected the traditions and lifestyles of the different tribes.




Depending on where in Africa they came from, the tribal African weapons made and carried by the different tribes were as diverse as the people themselves. They ranged from simple designs to those that were more refined and overly decorated and made with precious metals like gold.
The Fang were famous for their knives. These had blades shaped in the form of a bird's beak and were considered to be throwing knives. These knives were highly effective during warfare, and therefore greatly feared by the enemy. They were primarily made for hand to hand combat and not for use in ritual ceremonies.

Other tribal African weapons include the sickle-shaped knives of the Mangbetu tribe of Zaire. They were primarily worn to show the status, power and prestige of the owner. As a result they were made with elaborately carved wooden or ivory handles. The members of the royal family had highly ornate ones made out of cooper.These knives were just for show and were never used for combat.

The Zande people made tribal weapons that were more complex in design and would decorate the blades of their knives with engravings and slits. These knives were used as weapons until the end of the nineteenth century. Now they are considered to be ritual objects used to worship the ancestors of the tribe.

War axes were also another form of tribal African weapons. The Songye axes were amongst the finest designs of their time and only master metal workers were commissioned to make them. These axes had to be resistant and beautiful at the same time because they proclaimed the dignity of their chiefs. They were used by the Songye in their many battles to conquer new territories.

Another form of tribal African weapon is the shield. A variety of shields were used for protection in battle. This is more of a defensive weapon rather than an offensive one.The simplest shields were made of tightly woven basketwork and decorated with painted designs. This was common among the Mangbetu people of Zaire. The Masai of Kenya made oval shaped shields painted with geometric patterns for decoration. Other shields especially those made by the Songye were considered to be true work of art because of the level of craftsmanship used to make them.

It is without question that these tribal weapons were skillfully crafted and made. This is evident in the pieces seen in museums and galleries throughout the world and also in private collections as avid collectors are willing to pay top dollar to own one of these original weapons now considered to be true works of African art.




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