Mangbetu peoples
late 19th–early 20th century
more object details

General Description

Sharp-angled sickle-shaped knives with two or three holes and a hilt made of brass, wood, iron or ivory—like this one—were prestige objects made for Mangbetu kings and important men. They were held in the hand during visits, palavers, and ceremonials, as much for display as to be readily available, if needed. A blacksmith made the blade and a sculptor carved the hilt.

The exchange of luxury gifts occurred among Mangbetu and Zande rulers, so this knife may have been owned by a Zande king, who would have prized it. Similarly, a Mangbetu king made gifts of ceremonial knives to favored courtiers.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.