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Bill M 16th November 2008 12:10 AM

Rare African sword from Bali
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I believe this to be from the African Bali culture in the grasslands of Cameroon. I realize that I am leaving myself open to the REAL African experts and certainly welcome their opinions!

Don't think that the scabbard (came with it) is Bali, but probably came from one of their neighbors. Looks like a Tikar scabbard.

What do you think? Hey Freddy!


Jim McDougall 17th November 2008 04:45 AM

Well, I'm no African weapons expert, but I really wanted to see this one responded I put's on my pith helmet, and have been tramping around the grasslands of Cameroon all day !:)

These very symmetrical chopping type swords are really intriguing, and seem characteristic in similar examples across the central regions of the African continent. In Burton's "Book of the Sword" (1884, p.169) there is a similar type sword referred to as a Manyuema 'swordlet', which was described by Capt. V.Cameron in his "Across Africa" (1877). Interestingly, the overall sword is by form only, somewhat similar, but the scabbard is very much like those seen on the Bali example of one of these swords (Fischer & Zirngibl, "Africanische Waffen" p.36).
Freddy posted one of these identical hilts also some time ago, where his identification concurs with the Fischer & Zirngible example, and this is likely Bamenda tribe.

In looking through other references, such as "Beaute Fatale" it seem that these straight symmetrical chopping blades with widened straight across tips or sometimes rounded or spatulate, seem to represent the contact that likely may have diffused some weapon form influences via trade or expeditionary routes across the central African regions.

The Manyuema tribes sword described in Burton represents a sword type found west of Tanganyika in c.1877. A reference in "Beaute Fatale" illustrates a chopper sword of this type termed 'ilwoon' used by Kuba in Zaire, collected c.1919 and other varying forms of these straight chopper blade swords seen through Congo regions into the grasslands culture of SW Cameroon, with the example type shown here.

While the hilt and blade shapes of these swords are obviously often different, it does seem that the basic concept of these swords, with hilts stylized in sometimes similar structure, and with interestingly profiled and often uniquely decorated blades are characteristic of many Central African swords. Here is where African swords from these regions seem to be more artistically motivated and carrying subtle traditional and symbolic designs and decoraration.

I always wonder, for example, why the curious horned or T handle hilt on these Bamenda, Bali examples of these straight chopper blade swords, while the Tikar examples seen to have stylized anthromorphic type hilts.

The blades on the Tikar examples have multichanneled fullers the entire width of the blade running vertical hilt to tip. The Bali blades have a waisted feature at mid blade, and a single asymmetrical fuller from hilt to tip.

I can only imagine that these features on these swords represent key symbolism that may be related to ceremonial symbolism, as these swords seem more for those purposes than for actual combat. With that being the case, perhaps clues to these features might be found on other material culture and art from these various tribes.

It is interesting to be able to match similar weapons from these tribal regions, and note thier special or unique features, but my curiosity always asks why is it shaped like that and whose influence inspired it. I guess thats the joy and mystery of these African weapons!

I hope the African weapons guys show up here!!! All this research, and all I find is more questions:)

All best regards,

Tim Simmons 17th November 2008 06:58 PM

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Bill I am not an expert but I can see no reason why the scabbard was not made for the knife. The knife fits, I got one from Freddy and I think they are great items to have. Just been reading "African Art & Leadership" 1971 {interesting but a little old fashioned in views also containing a slightly Erich Von Daniken chapter} which mentions the difficulties of attribution to artifacts between Tikar, Bamum, and Bamileke. As the Bali inhabit areas bordering all three it is not surpricing with trade and so on to see varriations. When one sees something shown one way in a publication does not mean they were never seen another way. I think I have drawn a circle in the right place for the Bali on this map.

katana 17th November 2008 08:04 PM

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Hi Bill,
I believe Tim's comments about the possible origin of this type of small sword / scabbard are correct. In that the design is regional, rather than 'tribe specific'. I have this in my collection, I was assured by the seller that it was Bamum and was described as a 'King's' knife ...maybe.. I have never seen its equal :shrug:

Kind Regards David


Tim Simmons 17th November 2008 08:30 PM

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I risk being a crashing bore if I am not already.

I only recieved this book today from a small seller through amazon for a truly amazing 8. What is nice, is the previous illustrious owner who has very kindly left lots of pencil edits and highlights. Lucky Lucky. Now thats what you call VooDoo :cool:

Bill M 18th November 2008 09:33 PM

Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
I risk being a crashing bore if I am not already.

Just don't get your tusks caught as you crash through!:rolleyes:

Note post #12 in particular

Tim Simmons 18th November 2008 10:06 PM

Yes that item is living with me for the forseeble future. What a slut :eek: :o

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