19th Century Congolese Weaponry

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LH-Azande Knifes with stand, 30 inches, $375.00

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RH-Azande Knifes with stand, 31-1/2 inches, $375.00

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Azande Warriors of the North Eastern Congo carried many fine weapons known today for their fine metal work and their fine decorative patterns. The "Azande Saber" - The weapon that the Azande warriors are best known for. The characteristic piece has the extraordinary curve from grip to point.

LH-Kusu Short Sword with stand, 17 inches, $375.00

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RH-Mangbetu Warriors Knife with stand, 16-1/2 inches, $375.00

Mangbetu Warriors Knife with stand, 14-1/4 inches, $375.00

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Authentic African Weapons from the Congo River Basin. Circa 1870's

The Baptist Missionary Society was based in England and formed as part of the missionary movement which started in the late 18th Century as a result of the explorations of that period. They arrived in Africa among the earliest of missionaries but, like most others, restricted their activities in the Congo to the coast for some time, based on the fear of disease and cannibalism which fears were at least in part well founded. Nonetheless, in the 1870's they penetrated the Congo Basin with an expedition up the Congo River and established a number of missionary outposts in order to convert the people to Christianity. Unlike the population of other parts of Africa at the time, the inhabitants of the Congo River Basin were extremely territorial which brought about at least two results of interest to us: Firstly, protection of territories was accomplished through warfare and minor skirmishes which served the ritualistic need for human heads and flesh as cannibalism and head hunting were practiced throughout the region. The resultant lack of social mix was the source for the second point of interest: The people of the Congo, despite living in relatively close quarters with a highly structured inter relationship based on isolation, developed independent cultures with diverse religions and styles of clothing, art and metal work largely independent of each other. The diversity of forms in Congolese weapons is immense. As weapons were identified with power, for the warriors, their forms evolved to bizarre extremes independent of their functional value. The Baptist Missionary Society gathered a great many of these weapons, identified them and sent them to the home office from where they were displayed throughout England and the Continent along with other artifacts to generate donations for the mission. Today we are at the threshold of interest in Congolese weapons primarily due to valuable recent research done on the subject by Fischer and Westerdyke, combined with the availability of holdings from major collections many of which have been intact for over a century. Among those collections are the Baptist Missionary Society, Methodist Missionary Society and the Graves Collection.

Expansion through warfare is the heritage of the Azande, a Sudanic people who migrated to the Congo in the 18th century driving out the Mangbetu and pygmies and systematically destroyed or assimilated their neighbors. Initially unilaterally victorious, repeated conflict with the Mangbetu to the South produced mixed results and considerable cultural exchange. War was waged both by surprise raid and fully organized campaign. The configuration of the weapons of the Azande has long been the subject of speculation and perhaps is best summed up by Spring who suggests that attempting to attribute form to function is a Western concept which should not necessarily be applied. Truly, the charm and mystery of these and other African weapons is due in large part to the fact that we have yet to understand them. As research progresses, new understanding gives greater value to every example.

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