African Shields: Wargames

Extract from Tessmann's Die Baja ein Negerstamm im Mittleren Sudan: Materielle und Seelische Kultur

[translated by Inka Heeren; pp200 - 201]

Elephant spear.
From Petherick 1869 (1): 232

Skipping the rope is as popular [among the Baja] as it is with us, only [among the Baja] the boys do it, in the manner girls would do it [in Germany]. A boy takes one end of the rope with a loop/bow in his hand, holding [the other end of the rope] in the other hand in just the same manner. Then he jumps high into the air pulling the rope through underneath his legs. This is reported to imitate the adults' game of jumping across shields, bingeli, hence it is called a jam bin geli i.e. learning to jump over shields ...

Wargames are the games that are played the most. The Baja-boys fight their own battles like boys do all over the world. While doing so they hit each other with whips, zifa. They also throw spears made from the stalks of Aframomum granum paradisi (Hook) K. Sch., gbeli; hence [the spears are] called sele-gbeli. They throw arrows too, [made of] broken-off grass stalks and therefore without points, so they cannot hurt anyone. They are called kundi ko bim, the bow is called ndodo. The latter is most often made out of a rough piece of wood or raphia-stalk bark, with a string. The weapon used in close combat is a wooden sword or a 'knife to cut things with'. For a weapon to guard himself, the fighter 'for freedom and justice' uses shields, ngeli, kede ko bim. They are woven/plaited from pieces of palm string and have a grip on the inside. Very often they are made from old baskets or baby carriers ...

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