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Old 11th April 2015, 12:04 PM   #1
colin henshaw
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Default Sahara daggers "telek"

I bought these daggers recently, and see the type has featured on the forum in the past. They are usually described as "Tuareg telek", but I wonder if they were used by other Sahel peoples such as the Hausa etc.

Can anyone provide more information on the subject, and any references as to variances of the genre etc ?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 11th April 2015, 02:00 PM   #2
Martin Lubojacky
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Hi Colin,
My opinion is tghat in the concrete this your daggers were used by Tuaregs (and maybe some specific clan) and maybe also their menial men. Definitely not by Hausa and Bidda, and probably not by Fulani. But this is only opinion, I did not study literature on this.
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Old 11th April 2015, 02:53 PM   #3
Iain
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Hi Colin,

To echo what Martin has written, as far as I know these are more or less a Tuareg exclusive. There are apparently regional differences in terms of the hilt styles.

While forms like the takouba cross over between groups, arm daggers seems to be one of those areas where a more tribal approach was taken.

My understanding from looking at museum examples with collection notes is that your pair is probably from Niger around Agadez.

Attached is one of the other major styles which is associated with Algerian Tuaregs. (image source: Musee du Quai Branly online collections).
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Old 11th April 2015, 03:53 PM   #4
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These are the fine elegant old ones...far preferable to the blingy abstract forms being made for tourists today.

Nice pieces...all of them!
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Old 11th April 2015, 04:58 PM   #5
Tim Simmons
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I used to like these especially the long Tuareg? form. The only one I have left, which I kept as metal keeps better than the rather delicate goat leather. Is a Nupe? among other peoples example. Typical Bida workmanship.
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Old 11th April 2015, 05:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
I used to like these especially the long Tuareg? form. The only one I have left, which I kept as metal keeps better than the rather delicate goat leather. Is a Nupe? among other peoples example. Typical Bida workmanship.
Hi Tim, should be Nupe from Bida. But that doesn't mean they didn't export them for Tuaregs!
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Old 13th April 2015, 08:53 AM   #7
colin henshaw
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Thanks to those who have commented on these daggers. I note the hilt form is similar to that on Tuareg saddles (see image attached). There is a dagger like mine illustrated in the book "Waffen aus Zentral-Afrika" published by Museum fur Volkerkunde 1985, in which it is described as from Bornu..

I have noticed a feature on my daggers, also to be found on different types of Sahel/Sahara spears, ie. those two brass rounded protusions on either side of the blade socket. Can anyone shed some light on their purpose - symbolic in some way ?
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Old 13th April 2015, 10:58 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Thanks to those who have commented on these daggers. I note the hilt form is similar to that on Tuareg saddles (see image attached). There is a dagger like mine illustrated in the book "Waffen aus Zentral-Afrika" published by Museum fur Volkerkunde 1985, in which it is described as from Bornu..

I have noticed a feature on my daggers, also to be found on different types of Sahel/Sahara spears, ie. those two brass rounded protusions on either side of the blade socket. Can anyone shed some light on their purpose - symbolic in some way ?
On the Bornu attribution; my impression is that the designations in that title are based purely on the collection locale. Obviously with a wide ranging group like the Tuareg this means there's a real potential for a dagger to show up fairly far away from where it was made.

The cruciform hilts are similar to the saddles. I believe the construction is similar as well in terms of wood being utilized.

Not sure on the brass discs but it is certainly a common feature. It shows up in Dogon spears and those of other groups as well.
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Old 13th April 2015, 10:19 PM   #9
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Hi Colin,

In the context of Touareg daggers, saddles and jewellery, the design evokes the "Agadez cross". It is a very old symbol in Touareg culture, possibly pre-Islamic. 21 Specific types are identified, based on geographic provenance. An internet search on "Agadez cross", "croix d'Agadez" or "Rouareg cross" brings up a fair bit of info.

Cheers!
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Old 15th April 2015, 01:13 PM   #10
colin henshaw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emanuel
Hi Colin,

In the context of Touareg daggers, saddles and jewellery, the design evokes the "Agadez cross". It is a very old symbol in Touareg culture, possibly pre-Islamic. 21 Specific types are identified, based on geographic provenance. An internet search on "Agadez cross", "croix d'Agadez" or "Rouareg cross" brings up a fair bit of info.

Cheers!
Emanuel
A good point Emanuel. Interesting that this cross form also appears on the Nupe dagger posted by Tim.

In addition to the small brass domes appearing on weapons from the region, I have noted another peculiarity often to be found on some items of material culture (including weapons) from the Sahara/Sahel, ie. the use of green dyed leather and pieces of red cloth. These had puzzled me, one possible answer may be they are amuletic in origin, offering protection from the "evil eye". Here is an extract from the comprehensive book on the subject "Amulets and Superstitions" by E. A. Wallis Budge, 1978 reprint (chapter on Arab and Persian Amulets and Talismans).

Further contributions on these subjects are welcome...
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