Requires Photography


20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: South Africa


Overall: 8 x 8 cm (3 1/8 x 3 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Axes, maces, clubs

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.

Zulu hatchets are particularly known for their elaborately wrapped handles. Although these weapons were once used during combat, they have since become used during ceremonial dances.


1986, sold by Hurst Gallery, Cambridge, MA, to 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