Dagger and Sheath

African, Central Africa
20th century
Artist Unidentified


Overall: 56.2 x 7.4 x 2.5 cm (22 1/8 x 2 15/16 x 1 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood and metal

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Swords, daggers, knives

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.

Azande daggers tend to be less heavily adorned with decorative features, but can be identified by their thin handles wrapped with either copper or iron. Daggers were often used as part of dowries and a bridegroom may have to relinquish dozens of blades to the father of his soon-to-be wife.


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