Requires Photography


20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


Height x width: 14 9/16 x 4 3/4 in. (37 x 12 cm)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Iron, wood

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.

This luba cult knife is noted for the serpentine form of its blade. Although the blade of this handle is not adorned with a carved human head, many Luba knives and axes are so adorned. The handle of this blade has carved geometric patterns.


1970s, acquired in Paris by 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