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Old 29th February 2024, 07:41 PM   #1
Ian
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Default Group of small African knives for comments

This was a small lot that I picked up at an auction of an old Swiss collection. A Zurich husband and wife team collected extensively in northern and central Africa from about 1950 through to the end of the 20th C. About 500 items in their collection were sold off over two days.

I have a large number of excellent auction pictures of these knives, but am putting up just the "family photos" to discuss. If you need detailed pics of any particular knife let me know. OAL of these knives varies from 14.2 to 25 cm.

Comments and thoughts welcome. Work knives, women's knives, ceremonial?
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Last edited by Ian; 29th February 2024 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 29th February 2024, 09:05 PM   #2
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Hi Ian,

I am interested to see that you have started a new love affair with African blades! They have their own charm, don't they?

I can't be of great help but I see that three blades are daggers and all others seem to be utility knives.
Some of our Africa experts will give you an answer. But it's a beautiful grouping, they all together in a stand will be an eye catcher. Congrats, very nice catch!
Hope the shipping from Switzerland won't be too expensive, I have a very bad experience with an auction house from there.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 29th February 2024, 10:20 PM   #3
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Hello Ian

IMHO these knives are made for those who travel and were never intended to be used as a cutter.

I bought this knife in 2019 in Zanzibar (Tanzania).

Regards, Yuri
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Old 1st March 2024, 07:28 AM   #4
Martin Lubojacky
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Hi Ian,
The third from the left and far right could be Mangbetu and Songye.
Martin
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Old 1st March 2024, 08:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pertinax View Post
IMHO these knives are made for those who travel and were never intended to be used as a cutter.
Hello Yuri,

Lately I've been really speechless when I read certain comments!

When you don't see the difference between the knives in question and your tourist knife you should look for new glasses, sorry!

Do you don't recognize the patination the knives in question have received from decades of handling? You don't see that one of the knives has lost it's blade tip?
You don't see that the handle on the complete right was reinforced with a wire because the wood has cracked due to aging or stress?

Sorry again but I was really befuddled when I read your comment!

Regards,
Detlef

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Old 1st March 2024, 09:56 AM   #6
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Hello Yuri,

Lately I've been really speechless when I read certain comments!

When you don't see the difference between the knives in question and your tourist knfe you should look for new glasses, sorry!

Do you don't recognize the patination the knives in question have received from decades of handling? You don't see that one of the knives has lost it's blade tip?
You don't see that the handle on the complete right was reinforced with a wire because the wood has cracked due to aging or stress?

Sorry again but I was really befuddled when I read your comment!

Regards,
Detlef
Dear Detlef

I don't need glasses, I've been to Africa several times and seen everything with my own eyes.

Knives are sold in Africa not in supermarkets, but in small open-air shops or simply along the highway on the ground. A special feature of Africa's climate is that it often rains, followed by bright sunshine. Patina appears after two to three months, and the wood on the handle also cracks.

The blades of such knives are made of poor quality iron, 1.5 - 2.5 mm thick and therefore cannot be used for their intended purpose.

The tourism business has existed in Africa for many decades, and local residents make such knives.

Hebeisen has been producing replica and fantasy knives for Zirngibl and other dealers for decades.

A clear indication of the success that Hebeisen’s knives have achieved is that they are currently being reproduced in Africa, which demonstrates the African blacksmith’s proactive response to the demands of the European market.

I already posted this photo of the “African Supermarket”.

Regards, Yuri
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Old 1st March 2024, 11:46 AM   #7
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Pertinax,

I appreciate your experience "on the ground" in Africa. Valuable information indeed. However, as I mentioned in my first post here, these knives came from an ethnographic collection compiled over many years. Judging from several hundred items being auctioned from their estate, this couple new quality and rarity in the items they bought. They visited Africa numerous times also. Furthermore, the auction house specializes in African ethnographic items, and had known the owners of this collection for many years.

You may be correct, that these are simply inexpensive knives sold on the roadside to a couple of gullible tourists. However, I doubt it given the quality of items presented from their overall collection (which included many swords, knives, axes, etc., that fetched handsome prices at auction).

Ian.
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Old 1st March 2024, 11:56 AM   #8
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Martin,

Thank you for those identifications. I have also received an email to say that the second from right may be Lube, and possibly also the one second from left.
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Old 1st March 2024, 03:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Pertinax,

I appreciate your experience "on the ground" in Africa. Valuable information indeed. However, as I mentioned in my first post here, these knives came from an ethnographic collection compiled over many years. Judging from several hundred items being auctioned from their estate, this couple new quality and rarity in the items they bought. They visited Africa numerous times also. Furthermore, the auction house specializes in African ethnographic items, and had known the owners of this collection for many years.

You may be correct, that these are simply inexpensive knives sold on the roadside to a couple of gullible tourists. However, I doubt it given the quality of items presented from their overall collection (which included many swords, knives, axes, etc., that fetched handsome prices at auction).

Ian.
Ian, I expressed my opinion.
Regarding objects, you need to answer the questions - what is their practical application?
Cutting meat?
Go hunting?
Go to war?
Regards, Yuri
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Old 1st March 2024, 04:41 PM   #10
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With a little bit of cultural empathy one could imagine for which use an utility knife like four of the knives in question were used and for what. We speak about Congo knives, tropical climate! You have to make your own tools when you live rural, for nearly everything you need a knife, cutting plants you want to use and eat, animals you have hunted need to get skinned, later you need to cut the meat, in a rural kitchen there will be a knife always nearby.

Three other knives are clearly daggers, for what you need a dagger??

The other four ones, because they have the human shape, could also be ritual knives, when I look at the blades they were in long time use. Cutting the umbilical cord maybe? For the first hair cut?

There are numerous possibilities! But look simply at the patination of the wood, the condition of the blades before you tell another person who has paid good money plus shipping for them that these knives are tourist stuff and therefore worthless. Everybody who should be able to read patination will agree with me, that this is a very beautiful collection of minimum old Congolese ethnographic knives.

Sorry, when you felt attacked, this wasn't my aim. But after you have shown in another thread your very nice gile I was sure that you are able to read patination. And I really can not understand how someone can compare for example the both pictured handles and find them similar regarding quality, age, patination and so on.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 1st March 2024, 05:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pertinax View Post
I don't need glasses, I've been to Africa several times and seen everything with my own eyes.

Knives are sold in Africa not in supermarkets, but in small open-air shops or simply along the highway on the ground. A special feature of Africa's climate is that it often rains, followed by bright sunshine. Patina appears after two to three months, and the wood on the handle also cracks.

The blades of such knives are made of poor quality iron, 1.5 - 2.5 mm thick and therefore cannot be used for their intended purpose.

The tourism business has existed in Africa for many decades, and local residents make such knives.

Hebeisen has been producing replica and fantasy knives for Zirngibl and other dealers for decades.

A clear indication of the success that Hebeisen’s knives have achieved is that they are currently being reproduced in Africa, which demonstrates the African blacksmith’s proactive response to the demands of the European market.

I already posted this photo of the “African Supermarket”.
Hello Jury,

I've expressed my view just before. I have never been to continental Africa but have visited Asia several times. It is a very similar climatic condition there. Before wood like the handles from Ians "new" knives receive such a glossy patina it needs minimum years and it's a little bit unintelligible to me that you are obviously not able to see that, sorry!

Look again please!
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Old 1st March 2024, 06:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
With a little bit of cultural empathy one could imagine for which use an utility knife like four of the knives in question were used and for what. We speak about Congo knives, tropical climate! You have to make your own tools when you live rural, for nearly everything you need a knife, cutting plants you want to use and eat, animals you have hunted need to get skinned, later you need to cut the meat, in a rural kitchen there will be a knife always nearby.

Three other knives are clearly daggers, for what you need a dagger??

The other four ones, because they have the human shape, could also be ritual knives, when I look at the blades they were in long time use. Cutting the umbilical cord maybe? For the first hair cut?

There are numerous possibilities! But look simply at the patination of the wood, the condition of the blades before you tell another person who has paid good money plus shipping for them that these knives are tourist stuff and therefore worthless. Everybody who should be able to read patination will agree with me, that this is a very beautiful collection of minimum old Congolese ethnographic knives.

Sorry, when you felt attacked, this wasn't my aim. But after you have shown in another thread your very nice gile I was sure that you are able to read patination. And I really can not understand how someone can compare for example the both pictured handles and find them similar regarding quality, age, patination and so on.

Regards,
Detlef
Detlef I didn’t feel attacked at all, we gathered here on the forum to exchange our thoughts, experiences and observations.

I really love African weapons, but there are many items that should be classified as ethnographic objects, and not weapons. Unfortunately, there are many fakes and tourist items.

As for patina, I repeat that in the African climate it appears very quickly. When I bought my items, there were similar ones nearby, but rusty and with cracked handles. To understand this, you need to visit Africa at least once.
As for the tool, it should be convenient and functional. If you work with a tool with such a handle, your hand will quickly get tired.

I don't want to say anything about auction houses, but there is always the possibility of error.

In 1978, Werner Fischer and the late Manfred Zirngibl published Afrikanische Waffen ("African Weapons"), the cover depicting four elegant blades, among which stands out an impressive prestige knife with an ivory handle with radical ridges and intricate cuts in the shape.

Fischer and Zirngibl attributed the blade to the Zande Idio.

But then it turned out that Zirngibl hired a blacksmith by profession Hebeisen, who made counterfeits of African knives in Austria. These fakes have been sold for tens of thousands of dollars at famous auctions for decades.

Regards, Yuri
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Old 1st March 2024, 06:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
Hello Jury,

I've expressed my view just before. I have never been to continental Africa but have visited Asia several times. It is a very similar climatic condition there. Before wood like the handles from Ians "new" knives receive such a glossy patina it needs minimum years and it's a little bit unintelligible to me that you are obviously not able to see that, sorry!

Look again please!
Hello Detlef

I visited both Africa and Asia, the climatic conditions there are different. Africa has more humidity.

I'm not insisting on anything, I'm just expressing my opinion, maybe I'm wrong.

The items presented by Ians are 50-70 years old, my item is 5 years old.

Regarding ethnographic weapons, this is normal business for the countries that travelers visit. Examples: Oman - khanjar, Yemen - jambia, Morocco - kummiya, Indonesia – keris...

In Africa, too, since travelers began to visit it, in every country local artisans have been producing inexpensive ethnographic weapons for every taste and budget.

Regards, Yuri
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Old 2nd March 2024, 12:02 AM   #14
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Hi Yuri and Detlef. Quite a spirited discussion!

I'm not overly concerned if these were made for native use or were simply sold to tourists as cultural mementos. As Detlef points out, they could (and maybe were) used for specific purposes. The thin blades could be used for some household purposes, or they may be simply ornamental. I don't know. Perhaps our other African experts could opine on their utility or otherwise. What more interests me, however, is that they are ethnographic cultural items from the mid- to late-20th C (that probably reflect earlier customs). I think at least a couple of them show signs of use and perhaps sharpening, and they all shows signs of being handled frequently in my opinion.
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