Photographs © Tim Hamill
DENGESE, CEREMONIAL KNIFE
19.5" high x 4" wide x 1.25" deep
Wood and Pigment
Dem. Rep. of Congo
This ceremonial knife has been vetted as being authentic with significant signs of use and age.
Knives, axes, currency blades and spears, all made of forged iron, attest to the skills in metal of the Kuba and related peoples of central Africa. Most exhibit an inventive variety of form and workmanship far beyond what was functionally necessary. Specialists in the field will identify these pieces much more specifically. A good example of that is below:
With thanks to Ethan Rider: links to his website and new book:
Wooden Prestige Blade Itapi
Dengese (Ndengese), D.R. Congo
This hammer-shaped wooden blade was a badge of dignity of the Ntochi, a secret society within the Dengese. Also used by the Songye-Meno, it is descendant from an iron Mongo model. It has been suggested that the strong influence of the Kuba on the Dengese is the reason that these are made of wood, as the Kuba use many wooden knives in their ceremonies. Another reason for the wooden construction was suggested by Ikongo Sambo (1890-1987), who said that iron itapi insignias were banned after a drunken senior member of the Ntochi cult used one to murder his brother (Elsen, De fer et de fierte, 2003; Elsen, Tribal Arms Monographs, Vol 1/No. 1: Les armes-faucilles, partie 1, 1996; Zirngibl & Kubetz, Panga Na Visu, 2009).
North of the Kuba kingdom, across the Sankuru River, the 12,000 Dengese people claim to be the indigenous population of the area. Their king, known as the Etoshi, reigns over local chiefs who are assisted by noble men. Powerful groups such as the blacksmith, hunting, and witchcraft societies counterbalance the political power of chiefs (Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa, 2002).
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