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Old 2nd September 2009, 02:08 AM   #31
Jeff D
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Great thread!

I thought I would post this piece that I have posted a few years ago. It came out of South Africa as a Benin ada. It was either cast in two pieces, or was broken and brassed together.

All the best
Jeff
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Old 2nd September 2009, 09:56 AM   #32
Martin Lubojacky
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Thank you Tim
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Old 3rd September 2009, 05:21 AM   #33
Jim McDougall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff D
Great thread!

I thought I would post this piece that I have posted a few years ago. It came out of South Africa as a Benin ada. It was either cast in two pieces, or was broken and brassed together.

All the best
Jeff


Hi Jeff,
I remember this great piece!!! While checking for my notes it would be great if someone might add some information. Thanks for posting this, goes well with the context here on these West African swords.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 3rd September 2009, 08:28 AM   #34
Jim McDougall
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Jeff, Ive been going through all I can find on the ada, and after hours cannot say I have a definitive answer, but thought I would share some notes and references that may offer some ideas.

From "Africas Ogun:Old World and New", Sandra T. Barnes, 1997, p.60.
According to Smith, "...swords were of two main types: the heavier single bladed and eccentrically curved engbe, and the ida, usually double bladed and either with an elongated leaf shaped blade or approximating to European or near Eastern types. Other varieties of swords and knives were also used, such as the short Jomo, the tanmogayi (sabre), ADA, ogbo or ele (cutlass) and obe (dagger). With the exception of the obe, all these were designed primarily for cutting rather than for thrusting or stabbing."

The ceremonial sword was the ida type.

from R.S.Smith, "Kingdoms of the Yoruba" (London, 1976, p.145)

see also, "Yoruba Warfare and Weapons" also R.S.Smith ,1973,
'Sources of Yoruba History', ed. S.O.Biobaku, Oxford,
Clarendon, pp.224-249

Other notes from other sources:
EBEN: The Benins ceremonial sword , shape of sword is like a fan or an oar, iron blade, large ring shaped brass handle, edges of blade are blunt, kept in altar for royal ancestors.

ADA: ceremonial sword, Benin kingdom 18th century, had ivory handle, interlaced motif, iron blade brass inlay ENGRAVED FIGURE OF A BIRD over brass inlay, special mark on blade to represent magical power in iron.

It is noted that the ADA is carried by a bearer in front of the king (Oba)

The markings are essentially story emblems significant to symbolism for regalia. There are a number of symbols significant, one is the mudfish (actually a catfish, clarias anguillaris) which seems to figure into the royal mythology. While there are no fish symbols on the blade of this, there are the fin or flipper type scaled images....and these seemed worthy of note.

The bird has meaning representing the mystical powers of women, whose support is needed for the oba to rule effectively (why is this not at all surprising ) Apparantly there is a great deal of emphasis on the Queen Mother.

Apparantly brasswork was extremely important in much of the regalia, and I found references that note that ada's and brass masks were introduced to vassal lords as emblems of authority.

I think here might be a clue.....while this example is entirely in brass, or bronze, perhaps it was intended diplomatically in this sense, carrying certain symbolism representing royal imagery, yet of lesser degree than the ceremonial examples for the King and his immediate court.

I think more study on the art of the Yoruba; Benin and Nigeria might help in finding better understanding of the symbolism.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 3rd September 2009, 11:35 PM   #35
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Hi Jim,

Thanks for the great information. You have given we a few more leads to follow up on. Unfortunately I haven't done much research on this since I got it a number of years ago (have been diverted chasing after wootz sabers). I will let you know what I dig up.

Thanks once again!
Jeff
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Old 4th September 2009, 10:16 AM   #36
Martin Lubojacky
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Thank you both Jeff and Jim for very interesting and for me valuable reports. Regards,
Martin
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Old 10th September 2009, 02:53 PM   #37
colin henshaw
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Hi

Here is a photo of the cutlass after cleaning off the rust. I have also taken a photo of the sword blade alongside an old cutthroat razor, for comparison.

As noted by Vandoo - the forms are very similar, and the theory that the inspiration for this type of sword (and Amazons' razor weapons), came from European razors seems a strong one to me.

On close examination of the hilt - the shark/ray skin pieces used do indeed look if they could be from a European military sword, as Jim mentioned.

Regards
Colin
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Old 10th September 2009, 03:35 PM   #38
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Absolutely outstanding Colin! The configuration of the blade against the haft truly does have compelling resemblance to the haft on the European straight razor.
Thank you as well for the observation on the rayskin, and the support toward my suggestion that it may have been taken from a British officers hilt. The British presence in western coastal African regions was obviously prevalent here, and there were in many ways attractions to thier military regalia, as often found in various colonial situations.

In looking at this weapon it is easy to see how the SE Asian and Tibetan presumptions might occur, particularly in the instinctive free association perspective as it does carry key elements of resemblance. As earlier mentioned, this is hardly a rare situation, as the same identification conundrums have come up in a number of instances, and it is truly hard sometimes to make distinctions.

The wavy lines seen in linear motif here remind me of the associations to snake worship in aspects of West African religion and tradition, with the often mysterious interpretations of Vodun (of course the root of 'Voodoo' in degree in the Americas) among them.
This further complicates things due to the profound presence of nagan (snake) worship in SE Asia and India, as well as into Malaysian, and Philippines archipelagos ; the pronounced use of rayskin on weapons of China and Asian regions; and the obvious physical resemblances of the blade top being bifurcated (similar to kora) and the hafting resembling in degree the ram dao.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 10th September 2009, 07:06 PM   #39
Tim Simmons
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It is quite good fun making a comparison to a European cut throught razor as the inspiration of these pan West African ceremonial sabres/cutlass. To cut a long story short it is not difficult to find more detailed information on the creation mythology and the place of the ceremonial sabre. They tend to have associations with "god head" the principle diety clearing the bush for people to establish society and flourish. To my mind these ideas pre-date the import of European razors. Also I do not believe in this Amazon weapon. The permanant disply of African weapons at the BM does not in mention or include one. The recent extravagant expo in Taiwan that Luc brought our attention to will not have one either. I believe it is fiction made myth.
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Old 19th January 2010, 02:05 PM   #40
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Hi

Thought this might be of interest to those who contributed on this subject. Its the front page of the 26th November 1892 French magazine "Le Petit Journal". Depicts the Fon deities including the God of War (Gu) ? ... seized after the French colonial forces captured the town of Kana. The middle sculpture seems to hold a Dahomey cutlass similar to the examples discussed, but without the fish-tail blade.

Regards.
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Old 20th January 2010, 06:47 PM   #41
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In the ten years of this forum the two items shown here and a knife that Fernando has are the stars I am most envious of. Really nice objects.
Here are a couple of snippets from "Africa's, OGUN, Old World and New" available from Amazon and quite broadening. The book covers what we commonly know as Voodoo in Africa and the Americas. The ceremonial use of weapons is found in many social situations as supports of, and emblems of power in both the world of people and beyond. the extracts are just the basic setting so to speak.
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Last edited by Tim Simmons : 20th January 2010 at 07:10 PM.
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Old 20th January 2010, 09:32 PM   #42
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Very nice Colin!!!! Thank you for the follow up!
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Old 21st January 2010, 04:08 PM   #43
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Just thought I would add these. The top one is the "Gubasa"
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Old 21st January 2010, 04:37 PM   #44
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a few more related morsels... the last one is similar to the first few in this thread except the sharp edge is on the inside curve rather than the outside.
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Old 14th June 2013, 01:21 PM   #45
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Thought I would resurrect this old thread.

Saw this interesting old photograph the other day - obviously studio posed and presumably depicting a Dahomey "Amazon". Note the exotic accoutrements including the flag with skulls...

Regards.
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