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Old 2nd March 2013, 11:16 AM   #1
Iain
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Default Takouba with interesting pommel

This interesting little takouba recently joined me courtesy of another forumite so that I could have a closer look at it.

It's not a piece that confirms to most of the norms for these swords so I thought it worth sharing here.

The blade is flat, rather short at 58.5cm and overall the whole piece is only 72cm. The blade is heavily aged and corroded. This is not a young blade.

The intriguing part of this sword though is really the pommel and guard. The construction of the guard differs from most takouba in that it is brass, but not decorated and not built around an interior construction of steel plates. It is just hollow, sheet brass of reasonable thickness. Deep inside wood splints can be seen being used to reinforce the blade mount. I am really not sure this was ever covered in leather - there are no signs it had additional brass plates mounted on it.

The pommel is very ornately worked with raised designs (floral). The norm for takouba is indented work. Another unusual feature is that the pommel includes a tubular base which slots over the handle tube. Usually the handle fits directly into the pommel.

Because of these features I'm a little stumped as to an ethnic attribution for this one. Nupe because of the brass work is one possibility. But it doesn't really fit with other Nupe swords.

Any ideas based on the pommel motifs and design?
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Old 2nd March 2013, 03:25 PM   #2
colin henshaw
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Hi Iain

Looks an interesting old sword - never seen that type of pommel decoration before. Sure the hilt wouldn't have had some type of covering ? I can't be of much help regarding attribution unfortunately....
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Old 2nd March 2013, 07:37 PM   #3
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Hi Colin,

Could have been leather covered at some point I guess. Certainly hasn't been anything there for a while - the patina looks consistent across the pommel and the rest of the hilt.

Certainly is a puzzler - I haven't run across anything similar before.
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Old 2nd March 2013, 11:12 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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Hi Iain,
Interesting one indeed! The most intriguing thing is this pommel as noted, and with the ferrule or sleeve it is almost tempting to think of a doorknob, however I am not suggesting this is the case. In most of these remote regions however there are often unusual items incorporated in various decor and motif elements. I can think of examples of headgear in the Saharan areas in tribal instances using items of tablewear like spoons and forks.

What the geometric and floral motif on the pommel reminds me of is in certain pommels of kaskara from Darfur, Northern in particular, the Tama, the tribe of Ali Dinar. These radiating florals also remind me in turn of the pommel discs of tulwars. There are instances apparantly of the Darfur pommels using pounded out silver schillings and with the similar floral motif.

Naturally it seems odd to see these potential influences as far west as the Tuareg regions, but North Darfur hosted numerous heavily traded routes through not only El Fashir, its capital, but the trade city of Kobbei.
Perhaps, these might account for this apparant anomaly.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 3rd March 2013, 09:09 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Iain,
Interesting one indeed! The most intriguing thing is this pommel as noted, and with the ferrule or sleeve it is almost tempting to think of a doorknob, however I am not suggesting this is the case. In most of these remote regions however there are often unusual items incorporated in various decor and motif elements. I can think of examples of headgear in the Saharan areas in tribal instances using items of tablewear like spoons and forks.

What the geometric and floral motif on the pommel reminds me of is in certain pommels of kaskara from Darfur, Northern in particular, the Tama, the tribe of Ali Dinar. These radiating florals also remind me in turn of the pommel discs of tulwars. There are instances apparantly of the Darfur pommels using pounded out silver schillings and with the similar floral motif.

Naturally it seems odd to see these potential influences as far west as the Tuareg regions, but North Darfur hosted numerous heavily traded routes through not only El Fashir, its capital, but the trade city of Kobbei.
Perhaps, these might account for this apparant anomaly.

All the best,
Jim


Hi Jim,

Doorknob was something I thought of when I first saw images of the sword. Once in hand though it becomes clear its not a repurposed item. For one thing it is much too small!

Regionally I had been thinking more into West Africa rather than east simply because of the size - shorter swords tending to be from areas with heavier, forested terrain. The level of corrosion on the blade also seems consistent with a damper climate and not the dry heat of the Sahel proper. I should also mention this originally came out of a German antique shop - while not conclusive that may point to a former German colony as a source point.

I'd be interested to see a kaskara pommel with a similar motif - I can't recall one of the top of my head and will look around.

The floral element reminded me of the four petal element often seen on takouba guards - like the one in my avatar. But I have never encountered one with the stacked formation seen here.

Certainly one of the more fun and challenging pieces to cross my desk in a while!

All the best,

Iain
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Old 6th March 2013, 01:59 PM   #6
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Certainly it seems those floral and zig zag motifs are to be found on material from the Sudan, as per this dish which I believe is from Omdurman.

Regards.
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Old 6th March 2013, 04:31 PM   #7
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Hi Colin,

Thank you so much for posting this! That's very similar motif in many ways. It looks like I may have been looking the wrong direction for a source for this sword. I guess the far reaches of Niger and Tuareg territory are getting pretty close to Darfur.

I have very few details on how far takouba extended into Chad, but I always thought it was kaskara territory.

I guess the motif on the dish shown could be a more universal design (the four petal motif I recognize from Nigerian items as well), but in combination with the zigzag it seems a pretty compelling lead with regards to the takouba pommel.

Best,

Iain
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Old 6th March 2013, 09:32 PM   #8
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Default takouba

my thoughts are , perhaps this is an example of native use of european item such as a walking stick top, certainly lifts the appearance and would make it stand out amongst his peers.
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Old 7th March 2013, 02:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by napoleon
my thoughts are , perhaps this is an example of native use of european item such as a walking stick top, certainly lifts the appearance and would make it stand out amongst his peers.


I had similar thoughts before I had it in hand. However once I handled it in person it was quite clear that this is all native work.
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