African, Democratic Republic of the Congo
20th century


Overall: 62.9 x 12.7 cm (24 3/4 x 5 in.) Lender accessory (Mount): 17.8 x 10.2 cm (7 x 4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, iron

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Swords, daggers, knives

Iron knives, swords, and axes were more than armaments; they were powerful symbols of prestige and authority. Many weapons, including this sword from the Maniema region of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are intricately adorned with abstract geometric patterns and figurative elements, all of which are intended to increase the status of the object’s owner.


About 2000, sold by L'Ile du Démon, Paris, to Alan Helms, Boston; 2009, gift of Alan Helms to the MFA. (Accession date: December 16, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Alan Helms