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Old 12th March 2019, 08:11 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default The Tourist Item/Souvenier in arms antiquities

In a current thread on a koummya which was recently posted, it seems that these are almost invariably considered items of traditional form which are picked up by tourists and travelers in souks in Maghreb and other North African regions.

In many cases items are posted from India, Central Asia, Arabia, Africa, Indonesia. Malaysia, SE Asia etc. which are often summarily dismissed as 'tourist' in a pejorative manner, much to the disappointment of the hopeful poster.

Here there are many members who have travelled extensively and through exotic destinations where they have experienced first hand the bevy of these kinds of items hawked and sold in souks and various occasions.

I have often thought that in many cases, these are weapons of traditional form worn in manner of custom by native people, and with the idea of selling them to 'tourists' upon reasonable offer. In these cases it seemed to me these were actual examples of the form in effect, but willingly parted with.
In these cases, are these actual items of accoutrement intended as traditional examples and to be considered as viable ethnographic examples, or written off as just 'commercial junk' ? sold in souks.

In some cases, as the koummya mentioned, it is a souvenier but from the 19th c. and therefore an antique in its own right.

Possibly we might discuss these kinds of cases, and views as mentioned.
Also possibly we might post examples of modern types which while of this grade, still serve as ethnographic and cultural novelties.
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Old 12th March 2019, 08:52 PM   #2
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I guess for me it is a problem of quality, use, and age.

Tourist quality I rate as low. However, if a piece is modern with high quality and still in use by a culture, i.e. the Omani khanjar for example, then I would not consider that tourist but a recent legitimate piece.
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Old 13th March 2019, 12:02 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
I guess for me it is a problem of quality, use, and age.

Tourist quality I rate as low. However, if a piece is modern with high quality and still in use by a culture, i.e. the Omani khanjar for example, then I would not consider that tourist but a recent legitimate piece.



I think we are on pretty much the same page Jose. The tourist stuff (produced in some volume for souks with cheap material) is of course pretty bad....but things that reflect some quality, and with actual weapon potential....may not reach earlier standards but still are ethnographically viable examples.
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Old 13th March 2019, 03:05 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I think we are on pretty much the same page Jose. The tourist stuff (produced in some volume for souks with cheap material) is of course pretty bad....but things that reflect some quality, and with actual weapon potential....may not reach earlier standards but still are ethnographically viable examples.

....but then who is the judge to say that an item is bad or good. One might argue that the modern made quality Khanjars shown on Ibrahiim's posts, though no doubt "Ethnographic" are also made for tourists, otherwise why would they be produced, unless for presentation. I may be quite wrong, but I would expect that the well-to-do of Oman and the region, would be more likely to wear a quality old piece handed down thru the generations.
Pics of everyday life in Yemen (particularly) show Khanjar/Jambiya worn by the locals, of a quality we collectors might term low.
I have in my collection a few middle eastern swords which one could only class as "Tribal manufacture" but though of low quality, they certainly are usable as a weapon and I for one would not like to get in the way of one being wielded in my direction.
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Old 13th March 2019, 04:19 AM   #5
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Well said Stu, it is up to the person to decide whether the quality and character of the weapon is satisfactory. As I have noted I have never been in these kinds of places such as Oman, and I only know what I have learned from Ibrahiim regarding particulars on khanjars. I think you are tight though, the highly valued heirloom examples likely are worn by higher echelon men, while lesser grade are perhaps in more common environment.

Still I think these are of considerable quality in relation to what might be deemed 'tourist', even if with less ostentatious decoration and elements.

Even of lower quality are examples described as tribal or in some cultures 'village type' pieces which are sturdy, but not necesarily 'pretty' and as you note, ones which would be regarded seriously in adverse situations.
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Old 13th March 2019, 04:37 AM   #6
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Yeah I would place tourist, or at least low quality, as that of not being well made to be not very functional, although there are pieces that are now only jewelry made of expensive materials, but would not qualify as functional.
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Old 13th March 2019, 05:25 AM   #7
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What I should also have mentioned in my previous post, is that while in Dubai recently, I saw several quality Khanjars of the sort shown by Ibrahiim, for sale at very high prices, in the tourist shop at the Burg Kalifa. These could only have been aimed at the tourist market as the locals would not shop there.
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Old 13th March 2019, 07:20 AM   #8
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When I showed fotos of this koummya some time ago it was instantly and doubtlessly judged as a tourist item. However it is made in a very good quality with an unusual size - both attributes oppose to the opinion of beeing a tourist item. So what is it really?
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Old 13th March 2019, 09:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kahnjar1
What I should also have mentioned in my previous post, is that while in Dubai recently, I saw several quality Khanjars of the sort shown by Ibrahiim, for sale at very high prices, in the tourist shop at the Burg Kalifa. These could only have been aimed at the tourist market as the locals would not shop there.
Stu


Not necessarily. There are plenty of locals who browse at the Burj Khalifa, and they are sometimes the worst suckers for paying too much for things: too much money and took little knowledge.
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Old 13th March 2019, 02:56 PM   #10
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The "for those who travel" category is a deep dark swamp. The easiest is if the item in question was completely made for tourists. Where it gets dicey; what about a cheap blade shaped piece of metal put in an old original handle? Conversely how about an original blade placed in a cheap handle. Both of these could be done by a desperate owner to make a few bucks, or by a con man trying to make a few bucks.
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Old 13th March 2019, 03:49 PM   #11
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I have a recently-made barong which has an elegantly shaped scabbard, a thick well-shaped blade which has been stained to look similar to older examples, and a hilt which is moderately ornamental. It is both obviously new and also fully functional as a weapon.

It is obvious that effort was made to present as a quality piece, yet not overdone in ornament.

It is my feeling that it is of a higher quality - and cost - to be a tourist wall-hanger. Beyond that, I understand that such things are still carried by people of the culture. I'd say that as it is functional, culturally appropriate, and fully functional, it is a legitimate ethnological weapon, and I value it as such.[IMG]http://[/IMG]
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Old 13th March 2019, 07:42 PM   #12
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Hard to know where to start with this one... Locals don't usually shop in the souks of Oman for a Khanjar. How they buy a weapon is often done direct with the Khanjar maker. They don't often just buy a complete Khanjar but will look to match what they may already have to make an upgrade... so they could buy threequarters of a khanjar and have the workshop complete the upgrade with a part they want to be included...usually an old hilt worked onto a new scabbard. The entire Khanjar is interchangeable.

On The Omani Khanjar I spread the different sources around and enjoy the souk ...its great fun and the atmosphere is superb...Sometimes there is a bargain and a decent Khanjar presents itself. (Locals actually may purchase there for a cheaper weapon as a gift for a foreign visitor) There are some good quality accoutrements in souks thus its well worth having a look..and the Aladdin's cave syndrome is quite fun. Souks are quite likely to have a top class Khanjar shop somewhere in there so the whole story can change! My workshop is hidden away down a back lane miles from anywhere and that is normal here. People join whats up sites where anyone can load a Khanjar for sale...and where it is easy to see what is available ...There are always new threequarter complete Khanjars on those Like the one here....
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Old 14th March 2019, 01:54 AM   #13
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My 2 cents worth is that there are as many collections as there are collectors.
Some collect beautiful and rich examples. Other are attracted to simple examples with a whiff of blood. Some collect works of modern masters, other demand irrefutable proof of 17 century. Some want strict classic authenticity, other spend months to acquire an unusual example mixing several traditions. I am sure that somewhere in Australia or Kazakhstan there is a sword lover who collects stamps with the images of swords.

The disappointment arrives when we are sold ( often fraudulently) not what we were intended to collect.

Other than that, I gladly join Chairman Mao: Let the thousand flowers bloom!

Collecting weapons is a form of insanity because there is no practical use of these pieces of iron/carbon alloys hanging on our walls. Collecting abject replicas and cheap imitations is as logical ( or illogical) as Fiegel’s quest of getting only wootz blades with “two kirks and a rose”.

Choose what tickles your fancy and go for it! What makes you a true collector is not what objects you acquire, but what do you want to learn from them.
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Old 14th March 2019, 02:39 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob A
I have a recently-made barong which has an elegantly shaped scabbard, a thick well-shaped blade which has been stained to look similar to older examples, and a hilt which is moderately ornamental. It is both obviously new and also fully functional as a weapon.

It is obvious that effort was made to present as a quality piece, yet not overdone in ornament.

It is my feeling that it is of a higher quality - and cost - to be a tourist wall-hanger. Beyond that, I understand that such things are still carried by people of the culture. I'd say that as it is functional, culturally appropriate, and fully functional, it is a legitimate ethnological weapon, and I value it as such.[IMG]http://[/IMG]


Greetings. I am currently a student of BangsaMoro culture and weapons; I see you have here what we call as a 'ba-wrong' from Tugaya; that's a place in Mindanao that produces tourist items.

While I cannot ascertain the functionality of your piece, I'd like to list down the faults that I can see on face value of your piece:

1. The aesthetics are all wrong. That's the main problem with Maranao-made weapons. While the barung is used by a number of Moro tribes even until now, each tribe has somewhat customized the barung to fit their functional needs, thus the nuances in design (e.g. the modern Yakan barung is built like a bushcraft blade to suit the needs of the Yakan's peaceful existence; the modern Sama barung is light-bladed and has a hilt made of Santol wood for easier transpo, the modern Tausug barung is heavy, well-built, and still combat-oriented, etc). However, the Maranaons, to begin with, never customized the barung for functional use. If you try to research on period pieces of the Maranaons, they are very, very rarely shown with weapons, and when they do, they don't carry the barung. That already says a lot- that the Maranaons don't view barung as a functional weapon enough to have customized it to fit their needs.

2. The ukkil is wrong. Sorry I can't explain this in detail, but in summary, each tribe imprints its ukkil on their adopted barung design. When it comes to the Tugaya-made weapons, they attempted to copy antique weapons from other tribes, YET they used the Maranao ukkil. This is just wrong.

3. Some of the design modifications are outrageous. When you've viewed enough antique and modern BangsaMoro weapons, you'll realize that the Tugaya-made weapons are over-the-top. They're like peacocks.

4. Functionality. The only way to test for a barung's functionality is by checking if it's been heat-treated. According to several sources, the Tugaya-made barungs are NOT heat-treated. This makes them wall-hangers.

5. Lack of provenance. There's no such thing as an antique Maranao barung; according to historical documents, the Maranaons preferred to use ranged arms- guns and lantaka (cannons)- to defend their territory. They're not like the other tribes that glory in hand-to-hand combat. Without provenance, the Maranao barung is just...a modern counterfeit. A glorified attempt at reproduction.

I hope you'll view my criticism constructively; I know you may have spent a significant investment on your Maranao "ba-wrong", but well I guess it's much better if you buy barungs from other tribes (whether antique or modern) as they embody the true essence of BangsaMoro weapons.

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Old 14th March 2019, 03:11 AM   #15
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These are amazing entries! and it is fantastic to see truly well seasoned people in specialized fields offering these kinds of insights into the always present spectrum of 'souvenier' and tourist type ethnographic weapons.

What Ariel has said strikes a resounding chord with me,
"...it is not what objects you acquire, but what you want to learn from them".

Years ago I realized I was far more interested in the learning than to actually buy and own weapons, and that I was really an arms historian rather than collector. What became apparent was that as guys posted thier acquisitions I could research them and learn from them, thereby advancing knowledge on the example and/or form and help the owner better enjoy the item.

The weapons do communicate with us in a sense, and that is the joy of understanding history through the weapons that were there.

This view of course does not work well with modern produced weapons as there is not really history imbued in them. However, as has been noted, everyone collects with different perspective and purpose. For those interested in learning about cultures and traditions, often even weapons crafted for tourists or examples for decoration etc. .....these can serve as interesting examples to illustrate aspects of them.

The case for the khanjhar as illustated by Ibrahiim is a great example of how traditional weapons still very much actively a part of everyday life in Oman are carefully selected and commissioned to be made for each individual. These are of course different than the examples made in a more general sense to be sold to visitors, but would seem to remain of worthy quality as the importance of the weapon form traditionally would be observed.
I am not sure if my assumption here would be correct, but seemed reasonable.

As a 'non-collector' and surely not a world traveler, I do not have special expertise in this topic, but find these views of those of you who are fascinating, so thank you all.
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Old 14th March 2019, 03:15 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
Greetings. I am currently a student of BangsaMoro culture and weapons; I see you have here what we call as a 'ba-wrong' from Tugaya; that's a place in Mindanao that produces tourist items.

While I cannot ascertain the functionality of your piece, I'd like to list down the faults that I can see on face value of your piece:

1. The aesthetics are all wrong. That's the main problem with Maranao-made weapons. While the barung is used by a number of Moro tribes even until now, each tribe has somewhat customized the barung to fit their functional needs, thus the nuances in design (e.g. the modern Yakan barung is built like a bushcraft blade to suit the needs of the Yakan's peaceful existence; the modern Sama barung is light-bladed and has a hilt made of Santol wood for easier transpo, the modern Tausug barung is heavy, well-built, and still combat-oriented, etc). However, the Maranaons, to begin with, never customized the barung for functional use. If you try to research on period pieces of the Maranaons, they are very, very rarely shown with weapons, and when they do, they don't carry the barung. That already says a lot- that the Maranaons don't view barung as a functional weapon enough to have customized it to fit their needs.

2. The ukkil is wrong. Sorry I can't explain this in detail, but in summary, each tribe imprints its ukkil on their adopted barung design. When it comes to the Tugaya-made weapons, they attempted to copy antique weapons from other tribes, YET they used the Maranao ukkil. This is just wrong.

3. Some of the design modifications are outrageous. When you've viewed enough antique and modern BangsaMoro weapons, you'll realize that the Tugaya-made weapons are over-the-top. They're like peacocks.

4. Functionality. The only way to test for a barung's functionality is by checking if it's been heat-treated. According to several sources, the Tugaya-made barungs are NOT heat-treated. This makes them wall-hangers.

5. Lack of provenance. There's no such thing as an antique Maranao barung; according to historical documents, the Maranaons preferred to use ranged arms- guns and lantaka (cannons)- to defend their territory. They're not like the other tribes that glory in hand-to-hand combat. Without provenance, the Maranao barung is just...a modern counterfeit. A glorified attempt at reproduction.

I hope you'll view my criticism constructively; I know you may have spent a significant investment on your Maranao "ba-wrong", but well I guess it's much better if you buy barungs from other tribes (whether antique or modern) as they embody the true essence of BangsaMoro weapons.





This is an excellent itemization of a 'tourist' grade item vs. the authentic form and I do hope it is viewed as constructive as intended. That was the goal of this thread. Extremely interesting background here!
Bob, I think your attitude toward recognizing this piece as ethnographic even though modern is perfect.
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Old 14th March 2019, 06:19 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
Greetings. I am currently a student of BangsaMoro culture and weapons; I see you have here what we call as a 'ba-wrong' from Tugaya; that's a place in Mindanao that produces tourist items.

While I cannot ascertain the functionality of your piece, I'd like to list down the faults that I can see on face value of your piece:

1. The aesthetics are all wrong. That's the main problem with Maranao-made weapons. While the barung is used by a number of Moro tribes even until now, each tribe has somewhat customized the barung to fit their functional needs, thus the nuances in design (e.g. the modern Yakan barung is built like a bushcraft blade to suit the needs of the Yakan's peaceful existence; the modern Sama barung is light-bladed and has a hilt made of Santol wood for easier transpo, the modern Tausug barung is heavy, well-built, and still combat-oriented, etc). However, the Maranaons, to begin with, never customized the barung for functional use. If you try to research on period pieces of the Maranaons, they are very, very rarely shown with weapons, and when they do, they don't carry the barung. That already says a lot- that the Maranaons don't view barung as a functional weapon enough to have customized it to fit their needs.

First, thank you for your response.
Sadly, I seem unable to locate the shipping information for this item, which I thought I had in a safe place. I cannot say whether it came from Maranao. Can you tell me the grounds for your attribution? Anything specific, or just the overall impression?

Regarding actual local use, is there any likelihood that a blade of this type would be used at all, locally, or would it be avoided? It seems to be somewhat blade-heavy, but it seemed to me to be functional as a weapon.


2. The ukkil is wrong. Sorry I can't explain this in detail, but in summary, each tribe imprints its ukkil on their adopted barung design. When it comes to the Tugaya-made weapons, they attempted to copy antique weapons from other tribes, YET they used the Maranao ukkil. This is just wrong.

Please describe ukkil as applied to barongs; I'm unfamiliar with the term, and (obviously) not all that familiar with barongs, or barights. Pictures would be appreciated, if you can provide.

3. Some of the design modifications are outrageous. When you've viewed enough antique and modern BangsaMoro weapons, you'll realize that the Tugaya-made weapons are over-the-top. They're like peacocks.

While mine seems reasonably decorated, I'm not in a position to judge "over-the-top." If you could be more specific regarding ornamentation, I'd be pleased to learn more. Again, if you could provide graphic information, it would be useful to many.

4. Functionality. The only way to test for a barung's functionality is by checking if it's been heat-treated. According to several sources, the Tugaya-made barungs are NOT heat-treated. This makes them wall-hangers.

How might I check for heat-treatment? What level of functionality, or lack thereof, would one find in a blade that is not so treated?

5. Lack of provenance. There's no such thing as an antique Maranao barung; according to historical documents, the Maranaons preferred to use ranged arms- guns and lantaka (cannons)- to defend their territory. They're not like the other tribes that glory in hand-to-hand combat. Without provenance, the Maranao barung is just...a modern counterfeit. A glorified attempt at reproduction.

I gather that your feeling is that a barong made by the wrong group wears its falsehood on its face, so to speak. So the Maranaons would never carry a barong themselves, nor would anyone else in the Phillippines ever use one made by these folk?

I hope you'll view my criticism constructively; I know you may have spent a significant investment on your Maranao "ba-wrong", but well I guess it's much better if you buy barungs from other tribes (whether antique or modern) as they embody the true essence of BangsaMoro weapons.


I accept your criticism for its undoubted value, though it seems pretty comprehensively negative. Can you toss me a bit of sugar-coating next time?

Really, though, I'd be very interested in whatever you can make available by way of photos, drawings etc in order to educate my eye. Sadly, a field trip to Mindanao is not in the cards for me.

Any comment you might provide regarding current usage and carry of these weapons would also be enlightening.
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Old 14th March 2019, 07:50 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob A
I accept your criticism for its undoubted value, though it seems pretty comprehensively negative. Can you toss me a bit of sugar-coating next time?

Really, though, I'd be very interested in whatever you can make available by way of photos, drawings etc in order to educate my eye. Sadly, a field trip to Mindanao is not in the cards for me.

Any comment you might provide regarding current usage and carry of these weapons would also be enlightening.


Apologies if I came off as too stingy! Haha I'll make up for it by answering your request for further clarification.

1. I can tell it's Maranao as most of the antique shops in Metro Manila have ba-wrongs that look exactly like yours. There's an overall feel that just screams 'I'M FROM TUGAYA' and which most experienced collectors avoid. These ba-wrongs are ridiculously overpriced. As a point of comparison, Maranao ba-wrongs sell for $300 up; I just recently got a pre-WW2 well-preserved barung for just $136. The unreasonable price is designed to hoodwink tourists into buying these seemingly expensive and antique pieces.

If you want to be specific...perhaps the most obvious sign for me that it's a knock-off is that it attempted to copy a Junggayan crest (that's the end-part of the hilt that seems to have a wing) but it isn't well-done. It also attempted to copy the carved-metal-ferrule that's prevalent in Tausug barungs; but the design is unclear.

Regarding blade use...I really don't know. I haven't encountered a functional Maranao barung yet. In connection to your #4 theory, the easiest is to do a run with a hardness-testing file. or etch the blade.

2. Regarding ukkil...it's usually the carved pattern that's present on the hilt, at the throat of the scabbard, or in some cases the blade itself. Ukkil is present in many aspects of BangsaMoro textile, architecture, and other art-forms. You can check out articles on Google Scholar about ukkil. Suffice to say, once you get a lot of ukkil exposure, you'll be able to ascertain the origin and timeline of a certain barung by 'reading' its ukkil.

3. Another aspect that's difficult to explain, as it's similar to ukkil...once you have a lot of exposure, you'll know what's the 'right' amount of ornamentation for a barung. Since you have a modern, Tugaya-sourced ba-wrong, you can compare it with the look of my modern barungs sourced from Sulu (Tausug smith), Zamboanga (Tausug smith), and Basilan (Yakan smith), all of which are functional. I'm also attaching a modern Sama barung, which is my most elaborate barung to date. But its elaboration is...tempered and unified, and not over-the-top considering its overall theme.

5. Perhaps my view regarding this is tempered by the fact that there's rhyme and reason why a legit BangsaMoro weapon is made as such; from the hilt-to-blade ratio, to the overall weight, weight distribution; even some of the stuff that may look ornamental to some actually has some functional value. The Maranao ba-wrong has none of these; it just aims to be eye-candy, and nothing more. All Maranao ba-wrongs I've held 'feel' wrong when I hold them. BangsaMoro weapons are wielded using Moro Fighting Arts (MFA), and legit barungs as well as other weapons such as the pira and the kris rhyme perfectly with this art. The Maranao ba-wrong does not. It's simply...wrong.

Apologies if some of my clarifications will blossom into further questions ) if you want to learn more...I'd definitely recommend reading the book "Ukkil" by Ligaya F. Amilbangsa. It'll answer most, if not all, of your questions regarding ukkil, BangsaMoro weapons, and even BangsaMoro culture.

=)
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Old 14th March 2019, 03:06 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
Greetings. I am currently a student of BangsaMoro culture and weapons; I see you have here what we call as a 'ba-wrong' from Tugaya; that's a place in Mindanao that produces tourist items.

While I cannot ascertain the functionality of your piece, I'd like to list down the faults that I can see on face value of your piece:

1. The aesthetics are all wrong. That's the main problem with Maranao-made weapons. While the barung is used by a number of Moro tribes even until now, each tribe has somewhat customized the barung to fit their functional needs, thus the nuances in design (e.g. the modern Yakan barung is built like a bushcraft blade to suit the needs of the Yakan's peaceful existence; the modern Sama barung is light-bladed and has a hilt made of Santol wood for easier transpo, the modern Tausug barung is heavy, well-built, and still combat-oriented, etc). However, the Maranaons, to begin with, never customized the barung for functional use. If you try to research on period pieces of the Maranaons, they are very, very rarely shown with weapons, and when they do, they don't carry the barung. That already says a lot- that the Maranaons don't view barung as a functional weapon enough to have customized it to fit their needs.

2. The ukkil is wrong. Sorry I can't explain this in detail, but in summary, each tribe imprints its ukkil on their adopted barung design. When it comes to the Tugaya-made weapons, they attempted to copy antique weapons from other tribes, YET they used the Maranao ukkil. This is just wrong.

3. Some of the design modifications are outrageous. When you've viewed enough antique and modern BangsaMoro weapons, you'll realize that the Tugaya-made weapons are over-the-top. They're like peacocks.

4. Functionality. The only way to test for a barung's functionality is by checking if it's been heat-treated. According to several sources, the Tugaya-made barungs are NOT heat-treated. This makes them wall-hangers.

5. Lack of provenance. There's no such thing as an antique Maranao barung; according to historical documents, the Maranaons preferred to use ranged arms- guns and lantaka (cannons)- to defend their territory. They're not like the other tribes that glory in hand-to-hand combat. Without provenance, the Maranao barung is just...a modern counterfeit. A glorified attempt at reproduction.

I hope you'll view my criticism constructively; I know you may have spent a significant investment on your Maranao "ba-wrong", but well I guess it's much better if you buy barungs from other tribes (whether antique or modern) as they embody the true essence of BangsaMoro weapons.

This is the type of information that is very useful. It is also the type of insight that the Cato book lacked.(Which is why I take that book with a grain of salt). Xasterix I know you said you are just a student but have you considered doing a white paper on identification?
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Old 14th March 2019, 03:54 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mross
This is the type of information that is very useful. It is also the type of insight that the Cato book lacked.(Which is why I take that book with a grain of salt). Xasterix I know you said you are just a student but have you considered doing a white paper on identification?


Thank you for your kind words, sir. I owe the knowledge to past members of this forum, many of whom are my mentors, who once upon a time considered writing a book that would compile all their accumulated knowledge; sadly, it did not come to fruition. I am still tying up some loose ends with regard to modern BangsaMoro weapons (and I'm too focused on barungs, I need to catch up on the others), while I still have a long, loooooong way to go with regard to BangsaMoro antiques.

Perhaps one day, with my mentors' permission, I'll be able to make a humble contribution that will make PH blade classification a bit easier =)
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Old 14th March 2019, 08:40 PM   #21
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Once again, very nice exchange gentlemen!! on this barong type, and this is a great illustration of how genuine weapon forms inspire 'commercial' enterprise (=tourist) items. Xasterix' detailed and informative description of key elements of authentication is outstanding, and Bob, your gracious acceptance of same is exemplary in that the comments were indeed quite objective. I know from many personal experiences that these kinds of direct critique can be a bit rough.

This is a true learning experience for all reading here, especially for some like myself, completely uninitiated in these weapons of the Philippines.
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Old 15th March 2019, 10:30 AM   #22
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Hi,
This is a good subject, but as said, a real minefield. Huge grey areas and few truths, like other subjects related to authenticity. Everyone has different standards. In a way, it is parallel to restoration of damaged pieces. Some go for full restoration, including replacement of missing part, while others are minimalists and swear that anything but cleaning would compromise the authentic value of a piece.

Collectors of weapons that are still made and used, or were made until recently, and those who can not afford more expensive items, like myself, deal with these issues all the time. I personally rate authenticity above quality (to certain limits), because I am interested in the ethnographic attributes as much as in the weapon itself. These are my personal guidelines for collecting in this order (although I don't adhere to them 100%):

1. True to type: if a piece is not very old for its kind, it should at least resemble the original type. Many makers were tempted to adjust the style to what the buyers want - usually more ornaments. Whole styles have been invented for the tourist market. Many daggers that I collect have no described type, so I have to rely on intuition. However, for Koummiyas this works well. Original, 19th c. Koummiyas were made in around 5 basic types, which are described in several threads on this forum. Other styles were probably invented for the tourist market.

2. Signs of use: I see signs of actual use as a good thing, even if they compromise the quality of a piece to a degree. This is because they are the best proof of authenticity. Also this is not a universal truth. The best Mughal and Ottoman pieces, which are the pinnacle of Islamic weapons, are often presentation pieces/gifts and were kept safely on the shelf all their life.

3. Quality. Quality comes for me only in third place. If all things equal and the price tag is not to high, I prefer quality, of course. But quality is often not related to authenticity, contrary to what many people think. In daggers like Koummyas, Shibriyas and Arabian Jambiyas/Khanjars, low quality, or "village type" pieces are not necessarily younger or less authentic.

In the pictures, a Shibriya from Sinai which is authentic, but definitely below mine and most collectors' standards. It shows that the value of authenticity has limits, even for me. Below, 3 Koummiyas I bought recently that are not very old, but true to type, have reasonable quality blade and show signs of use, so I consider them as authentic.
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Old 15th March 2019, 11:56 AM   #23
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Just to add to the topic of modern barung made for use or decoration, there is an older thread "Modern Barung" from about a year ago that discussed some of these issues also. It can be found here. Perhaps Xasterix could inform us more fully about some of the examples shown in that thread.

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Old 15th March 2019, 12:11 PM   #24
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I cannot agree more with Motan. Each collector establishes HIS own criteria based on HIS own overarching vision of the purpose of HIS collection.

Here is somewhat subversive idea: One can legitimately collect modern versions of a particular weapon extending its evolution beyond its practical use. Weapons are living objects and were modified by each succeeding generation of their owners.
Thus, the question of how the modern masters extend the trajectory of such a process, choosing the most important and attractive features of past examples and creating what they imagine as an ideal form is a legitimate one. It informs us not about actual history of examples but about their potential ideal in the imagination of its creators. In a way, it is a futurology of weapons. It is necessarily subjective but that’s the history of art and design. Actually, slave imitation of long-forgotten forms is rejected in the design of cars, clothes or watches, to name a few. I’d rather buy a concept modern Toyota than a a faithful replica of Ford T.

Personally, I like Bob A’s barung much more than the allegedly authentic versions of Xasterix. The former is elegant, artistic and practical whereas the latter look like shoddily imitated compilations of old details but look ... fake and cheap.

But then, either you like Picasso, or you do not like Picasso.

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Old 16th March 2019, 12:00 AM   #25
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I'm coming into this discussion a little later than I would have preferred, but I've been "off the planet" for a few days, and that has restricted my ability to communicate.

I have just now read through all the posts to date, and what I have read seems to be mostly presented from the perspective of the collector, which of course is reasonable, since most of us who contribute to this forum are indeed, collectors.

I'd like to make a couple of comments from a slightly different perspective, and limited to the objects that are my prime focus, which is to say, keris and associated edged weaponry.

I find the concept of "tourist" weaponry difficult to understand in terms of the present time.

If I wish to import the type of weaponry that interests me, into the state of Australia in which I live, I need to obtain a certificate from the state police that states I that I am permitted to import and to possess that weapon. I then present this certificate to the Australian Customs service, and they permit me to take possession of the imported weapon. This applies whether I personally carry the item, or whether I have it sent to me.

I know that many, if not most countries now have import restrictions applying to edged weapons that are similar to the Australian restrictions. From personal knowledge of what tourists to Indonesia buy at the present time, compared with what tourists to Indonesia bought during the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's, my opinion is that the preparation and sale of keris and other weapons to foreign tourists to Indonesia does not exist any longer, it has simply become too difficult for Mr. Good Citizen to take swords and daggers back to his home country.

It may have existed at times in the past, but the only dedicated tourist style of keris of which I am aware is a particular type of Balinese keris that began life as a keris that was popular for dance performances and ended its existence in the marketplace as a travesty of a keris with a cut-out sheet metal blade and incredibly poorly carved dress.

Those old-time "tourist keris", when of fair to good quality, have now become collector's items in their own right.

My own position on the designation of a weapon as a "tourist" or "souvenir" is quite simply that where a traditional weapon that still fulfils a function in today's society is manufactured for use in today's society, then that weapon is a genuine ethnographic artifact of the society, and its value is directly related to its quality.

Where a weapon no longer fulfils a function in its society of origin, but continues to be made, and then purchased by persons either within or outside of the society of origin, as a keepsake, ornament, toy or souvenir, then that weapon can legitimately be classified as something prepared for tourists, or as a souvenir. I think perhaps a good example of this type of "tourist weapon" would be the Australian boomerang, especially the hunting boomerang:- still made, but no longer used for its originally intended purpose.

I very much doubt that it is ever possible to classify any weapon as "tourist" just on the basis of type, style or quality, I feel that it is necessary to have an in depth understanding of the society of origin of that object, before it can be classified as "tourist" or "souvenir".

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Old 16th March 2019, 02:08 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I cannot agree more with Motan. Each collector establishes HIS own criteria based on HIS own overarching vision of the purpose of HIS collection.

Here is somewhat subversive idea: One can legitimately collect modern versions of a particular weapon extending its evolution beyond its practical use. Weapons are living objects and were modified by each succeeding generation of their owners.
Thus, the question of how the modern masters extend the trajectory of such a process, choosing the most important and attractive features of past examples and creating what they imagine as an ideal form is a legitimate one. It informs us not about actual history of examples but about their potential ideal in the imagination of its creators. In a way, it is a futurology of weapons. It is necessarily subjective but that’s the history of art and design. Actually, slave imitation of long-forgotten forms is rejected in the design of cars, clothes or watches, to name a few. I’d rather buy a concept modern Toyota than a a faithful replica of Ford T.

Personally, I like Bob A’s barung much more than the allegedly authentic versions of Xasterix. The former is elegant, artistic and practical whereas the latter look like shoddily imitated compilations of old details but look ... fake and cheap.

But then, either you like Picasso, or you do not like Picasso.


Hi, just to emphasize, the barungs I've posted aren't 'allegedly' authentic; they are DEFINITELY authentic. They are sold by a Yakan friend, and several previous members of this forum have verified that she's selling the real thing, as sourced from Basilan, Zamboanga, Jolo, and Tawi Tawi. Like me, they also frown upon the ba-wrongs of the Maranao, because those things can't even be sharpened properly, or fail to hold an edge after a couple of cuts. Why? Because they're not even heat treated.

Coming from the perspective of someone who practices the Moro Fighting Arts, I'll use your analogy. Which would I prefer, a car that performs well, is faithful to culture of the people who invented it- or a toy car that looks amazing, is a mishmash of various cultural motifs, but doesn't even run on batteries?

Please do not forget that the best people to ask about these weapons, aside from the ones who produced them, are actually the ones who are able to USE them. A blade is meant to be thrust or swung. I'm wondering how you would have been able to assess that the 'ba-wrong' is more practical than my legit barungs, when you haven't even held them yet.

Lastly, these things aren't just art forms. They are meant to be functional and deadly works of art. Hopefully we will be a little considerate and discerning of the argument and proof I have established.

Last edited by xasterix : 16th March 2019 at 02:34 AM.
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Old 17th March 2019, 05:04 AM   #27
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First, we have addressed the barong in many threads. I have mentioned the same thing over the years because each Moro tribe has it's own unique version of okir/ukkil. I agree with Xasterix's comments on this barong.

As for the rest, that is why I make the distinction between tourist and recently made weapons.
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Old 17th March 2019, 09:01 PM   #28
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Perhaps opinions can be developed regarding this barong, purportedly dating from the Phillippine revolt around 1900. The bullet hole appears to be .38 caliber. It was noted at the time that this round did not have adequate stopping power; the wounded would continue to advance. This prompted the move to .45 caliber handguns by the US Army.
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Old 18th March 2019, 12:15 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob A
Perhaps opinions can be developed regarding this barong, purportedly dating from the Phillippine revolt around 1900. The bullet hole appears to be .38 caliber. It was noted at the time that this round did not have adequate stopping power; the wounded would continue to advance. This prompted the move to .45 caliber handguns by the US Army.


Piece with significant provenance. Bunti wood semi darkened with age, may indeed be from early 1900s...I saw this being sold on an online auction. May have been used by someone committing 'Parang Sabil'.
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Old 18th March 2019, 01:53 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
Piece with significant provenance. Bunti wood semi darkened with age, may indeed be from early 1900s...I saw this being sold on an online auction.

Yes, that's where I found it.

May have been used by someone committing 'Parang Sabil'.

Suicide attack with sheathed blade?

That begs the question: just where would that fired round strike the attacker's body in such a situation?



Inspection of the bullet hole leads me to believe it occurred quite some time ago.
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