Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   Congolese Azande/Membele Boa Short Sword (

kronckew 8th December 2021 06:02 PM

Congolese Azande/Membele Boa Short Sword
1 Attachment(s)
I've admired these swords for a while, finally found one within my budget. 45 cm. blade, 55 cm. length overall. 6 cm. widest part, and only about 2 mm. thick, weight around 300 grams. Very stiff blade, and sharp as heck. Grip is quite small, wood, with w tang peened over at the pommel end. I'm forced to grip the ricasso area with my thumb and forefinger, it's then quite comfortable. There is another recent addition to the 'ethnic warrior' photos showing three people with these. I gather they are from the Congo, and used by a variety of tribes there. One ref. called them 'slavers' swords. Any further info would be appreciated. Thanks.

Pieje 8th December 2021 11:38 PM

Hi, this is a classic Boa sword from Congo, as you said.

colin henshaw 9th December 2021 11:10 AM

A nice example of a Boa/Azande Congo sword as mentioned. They often have wire wrap to the hilt and I've seen them in a woven fibre sheath sometimes. The ridging to the blade acts to strengthen it, without increasing the weight and thickness. Often these blades will have a hole made in them which also acts to stiffen/strengthen the blade.

African weapons often have smallish hilts, it seems Africans (and others) in the past had smaller and thinner hands than nowadays.

gp 10th December 2021 02:11 PM

3 Attachment(s)
as they do come in plural sizes, hereby a few pics as examples

In addition to being a functional blade, the mambeli short sword served as a symbol of prestige and as currency. Most were carried under the belt without a sheath; examples with a sheath are rare. While their dimensions vary considerably—from 8 to 36 inches—the size of the handle is always relatively small.

The mambeli short sword was produced in large quantities by the Boa (Ababua, Bobwa), Angba (including the Mongelima), and Hanga. They were also collected among numerous neighboring populations, including the Bandia, Zande, Mangbetu, Nzakara, Barambo, Mba, Ndaaka, Bati, Binja, and Bengé. Their popularity and widespread distribution resulted in innumerable local variants designed by neighboring peoples.

The Boa migrated to their current homeland in northeastern D.R. Congo from the west, and arrived before the Bandia and Barambo migrated from the northwest, and the Mangbetu from the east. The Zande then arrived from the north and settled nearby. The Mangbetu, Zande, and Bandia exerted a preponderant influence on the Boa, particularly in their clothing, daggers, and shields. Despite this strong influence, the Boa remained independent (Elsen, De fer et de fierté, 2003).

A traditional African weapon can be a striking and affordable addition to any décor. The sleek lines and incised patterns of these knives, swords, and axes bring to mind modern sculpture, though these pieces were not created as art. Many were made strictly for combat, and others served as status symbols.

The Zande of central Africa made and used knives in battle until the end of the 19th century. Later, they used these weapons as ritual objects. ( Douglas Deihl, African Weapons as Design Elements in a Modern Interior, 2013)

kronckew 10th December 2021 02:26 PM

Cool info, thanks all.

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