Status stick

Maseko Ngoni people, Zambia or Malawi

19th to very early 20th Century

This beautiful beaded "short spear" is a very rare Ngoni object of prestige described in Dr Michael Conner's PhD thesis as a "Sweat scraper" (Personal communication: Michael Oehrl) 

One can find such "sweat scrapers" in old UK museum collections, as well as the American Museum of Natural History, but made of the lower part of the "spear point" only. Sometimes they are attached to a cord or joined to a snuff containers and described as "nose cleaners" (see AMNH 90.0/867, before 1907)

A piece similar to ours, collected between 1904 and 1914 is registered at the British Museum under inventory number Af1950,42.24 and originates from Nyasaland (current Malawi).

It is possible that these (including the present example) are sweat scrapers. It is less so that the small examples are "nose cleaners", but more probably snuff spoons.

Considering the size and attention paid to decoration on the present object, we form the hypothesis it is a prestige object, possibly a dance stick (which would explain the sweat scraping use...?)

The composite spear is made of iron, the shaft covered in light & dark blue, white, pink, red and black beadwork in flower and lozenge patterns.

The piece is 54, 5 cm (21 1/2 inches), it comes from an English collection and the beads indicate a 1900-1910's origin. It carries an old label with the number "779" and what seems to be the word "Zulu", as was often the case for anything coming from the vast region of southern Africa at the time. The delighful object sits on a dynamic custom made base by Romain Laforêt.

Price : 1000 Euros


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