A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Guido T. Poppe is one of my oldest and best friends. With others, we shared a passion for shells for many years. While Guido continued developing conchology (where he became an author of many standard works) I continued to study African weaponry.
Some time ago Guido asked me to document his collection for the present homepage and an upcoming book. His steadily growing knife collection is now of great interest. Actually it contains specimens of the rarest African knives as well as high quality examples of the more common types. To give a structure to this work we decided to use the typology used before in all my other works: the different types of knives as listed here under. Other interesting data are: origin, approximate anciennity, size, materials used, local name and type.
Although a collection is never complete, since it will always reflect personal taste, this collection gives a very fine survey on Central-African knives in general, with a main chorus on knives of the former Belgian Congo and throwing knives which are among Guido's favorites.
The title of his site: 'Mambele' is one of the names given by the Mangbetu people to their famous sickle weapon.
African knives reflect the great craftsmanship of Central African blacksmiths before close contact with the west. The first explorers and early colonists in central Africa brought back a large number of local weaponry: indeed this was considered more valuable than anything else in the eyes of early 20th century collectors. Later, interest in weapons was overshadowed by woodcarvings, that, in many ways lay at the base of Western modern art. The last twenty years knives gained constantly in interest because people started to look at their shapes and understood that these genuine objects are as valuable as any other form of African Art.
Many African people also carried their weapons as ornaments reflecting their wealth. Very often beauty was more important than functionality. For this reason we see so many blades in copper and other soft metals, which they considered as more precious and which are generally also more difficult to forge. Like our "officers" still carry their sables for official parades, so carried Central African people their knives as symbols of social rank. Unfortunately modern times overruled these ancient traditions and weapons disappeared out of the daily life as did the craftsman who made them. Today it is almost impossible to find a knife of good quality in the whole region of Central-Africa, or a person who is able to forge one. As such these weapons became a part of history that we must try to cover and document for future generations.
Some african weapons treasures in the collection:
African masks from Known Collections
Free African Art Authenticity Report
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Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart
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