Double Shona Bakatwa (Dagger)
Time Period: 19th C.
Origin: Zimbabwe, Shona Peoples
Materials: Metal, Wood
Provenance: UK Market, Private Collection.
Certificates / Declarations: Certificate of Authenticity.
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Double Shona Dagger
A super rare double Shona Bakatwa, probably the only one on the open market today. Bakatwa is the general Shona word for the wooden scabbard daggers which can be found in Zimbabwe. Although the concept of a scabbard dagger might well have been copied from coastal Arab traders who ventured into the interior many centuries ago, the particular type of dagger or knife found here was developed as uniquely Zimbabwean. The wooden scabbard (hara) comprises two separate pieces of wood bound together by thread, brass or copper wire. The top section of the scabbard is usually richly decorated with intricate carvings of various designs. The rear section of the scabbard features a wooden belt loop to allow the wearer to strap the weapon about his waist (Ellert 1984, p43).
Bakatwa Traditional Use
This weapon was accorded a high level of prestige in traditional Shona religious practice.
Bakatwa were and are passed down from generation to generation in a lineage, and were used in religious rituals to symbolise the presence of the owner’s ancestors, the sword’s previous owners. In these rituals, the owner addressed the bakatwa as if it was the physical embodiment of his ancestors. This link between the spirits and these swords also meant that n’angas (diviner-healers) and svikiros (spirit-mediums) carried them as the insignia of their profession. Certain Shona hunters were traditionally believed to be under the spiritual influence and guidance of deceased hunters, known as shave spirits, so they also carried bakatwa as a symbol of their spirit ally.
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