African, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Height x width: 48 x 18 in. (121.92 x 45.72 cm)
Medium or Technique
wood and metal
Not On View
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 knife takes its inspiration from the Ngala execution knife. However, the sickle shape has been transformed into a crescent moon. The two protruding blades are reminiscent of abstracted outstretched human arms. The handle is decorated with copper bands and wire. A knife such as this was likely made for ceremonial purposes.
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)
Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart