Azande Makrigga, African Spearpoint

Azande Makrigga, African Spearpoint

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This is a very nice example of a Zande Makrigga, traditional South African spearhead.

The Zande people inhabit the region of South Africa, near the borders of the Congo and the Sudan. An expansionist tribe, they were greatly feared amongst neighboring tribes for several reasons. They were highly organized, employed demoralizing psychological warfare, and fought in an organized and extremely effective fashion. Rumored to be cannibals, the Zande were also known to behead their enemies and would not take prisoners.

Another reason to harbor both fear and respect for the Zande warriors was the wickedly well crafted spears they carried into battle. The barbed section of the spearhead, below the leaf shaped blade, served two purposes. If used for hunting, the spear could be thrown at large game. I have read that the spear occasionally was fitted with a line, making it serve more like a harpoon. Even if the animal survived to run a substantial distance, the barbs would make it impossible to shed the spear stuck in it's body. The Zande hunter could follow the trail of blood left behind, until the animal eventually tired of it's flight, or succumbed to blood loss. In battle, the savage and lethal appearance of the weapon inspired fear. If an enemy was stuck with such a spear it would cause devastating wounds which would almost certainly prove fatal, even if not immediately.

Another aspect of the elaborate design of the Zande spearheads, and one more reason for the decorative aspects of their construction, was their use as dowery for marriage. Given to the bride's family, the value of each spearhead was based on how well made and decorative it was.

Unfortunately, I can only offer an educated guess as to vintage of this particular example. I know roughly when it came into the possession of the party from whom I received it, and base all other impressions on workmanship and condition. This spearpoint is is more elaborate and well formed than some, as such I expect it was made for use by the tribe and perhaps not for trade. Although it shows patina and signs of use, it is far better preserved than one would expect from an older example.

I invite any questions, although I would be surprised if I could tell any more than I already have. I also encourage additional information anyone could share with me, as I am certain there are persons far more knowledgeable of African Folk Art and Craft
than I would pretend to be.