Prestige Axe

Songye peoples
20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


Overall: 45 x 26.5 x 6 cm (17 11/16 x 10 7/16 x 2 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, copper sheet metal, iron

On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Arms and armor

The blade of this axe is connected to the wooden handle by iron struts, some of which are adorned with faces, while others are twisted in a braid-like form. This particular axe is attributed to the Nsapo, a Songye subgroup. The detailed struts and the copper sheets that adorn the handle indicate that this was a prestige weapon belonging to a high-ranking individual.


red plastic label on handle below blade: 58


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