Requires Photography


Zulu peoples
20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: South Africa


Overall: 79 x 7 x 7 cm (31 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 2 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

wood, wire

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Axes, maces, clubs

Iron knives, swords, and other weapons are more than armaments; they are powerful symbols of prestige and authority. Many weapons are intricately adorned with abstract geometric patterns, figurative elements, western-made objects, and copper accents, all of which are intended to increase the status of the object’s owner. In addition to the functional and ceremonial aspects of African weaponry, iron blades were excellent trade items that could function as currency.

The handles of Zulu clubs and axes are both adorned with winding patterns carved into them. Similarly decorated handles can be found amongst the Tonga and Mangwato.


Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart