The Azande and Their Shields: Petherick's Accounts

Overview of the Azande and their shields

Schweinfurth's account

Evans-Pritchard's account

Petherick's accounts

Extract from Petherick's Egypt, the Soudan and Central Africa

Extract from Mr and Mrs Petherick's Travels in Central Africa

Extract from Petherick's 'On the arms of the Arab and Negro Tribes of Central Africa bordering on the White Nile'

A story: Ture's fight with a man and his sister

A Zande shield in Pitt Rivers' collection

More about African shields in general

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Extract from Petherick's Egypt, the Soudan and Central Africa

Their arms consist of smooth and barbed lances, and a large oblong shield, formed of closely woven matting, composed of several patterns, and dyed with many colours. In the centre of the interior is a wooden handle, to which are attached two or three singularly-formed iron projectiles, resembling a boomerang of rather a circular form, bearing on their peripheries several sharp projections. Attached to the girdle, a strong leather sheath containing a knife, hilt downwards, is worn by every Neam Nam.

Extract from Mr and Mrs Petherick's Travels in Central Africa

(p68 - 69, describing dances by servants and followers at the Petherick house in Khartoum)
... Ringa watched these manoeuvres with great interest, and, when they were ended, proposed to show what the Neam Neams did when they attacked an enemy. He also discarded his robe; and arming himself with a wicked-looking curved hatchet, and putting his arm through the sling of a large oblong shield, he sang himself into a fury, and then a grand imaginary combat took place ...

(p280 - 281)
Their arms are beautifully-worked matted shields, bows and arrows, a peculiar, curved, double-edged sword, also various curious, nearly circular iron missiles, with several awkward, sharp projections, and a knife, suspended handle downwards to the waist-belt.

Extract from J Petherick, 'On the arms of the Arab and Negro Tribes of Central Africa bordering on the White Nile' JRUSI

The Runga or Neam Nam, inhabit the regions of the equator, and thence south, and are a large, powerful, slave-holding tribe, calling themselves cannibals, and reputed to be so by their neighbours.

It was not without difficulty that I succeeded in forming friendly relations with these people, and not until I had killed a vulture, which was hovering over my party, and subsequently an elephant, within the limits of their village, would they listen to overtures of any description, convinced though they were by the great noise and effect of my fire-arms, of which they had previously neither seen nor heard, as they afterwards expressed themselves, that it was in my power to exterminate the whole race.

The Neam Nam make war on their surrounding neighbours for the purpose of kidnapping slaves, to whom they entrust the cultivation of their lands: and, although holding them in perpetual bondage, treat them with consideration and kindness.

The only occupations which a Neam Nam will stoop to, are war and the chase, to which he is from early youth inured, and thus becomes the terror of the neighbouring tribes.

His arms consist of the smooth and barbed lance and a curiously-contrived projectile, of which I regret to have lost the best samples, with many other curiosities and living animals, by the wreck of my boat in the Nubian cataracts.

The shield is made of reeds, or the leaf of the palm-tree, interwoven in tasteful patterns of variegated colours, and a kind of cloth, with which they cover themselves, is also made by this tribe of the inside fibres of bark, the threads of which are dyed with several colours.

When giving battle, the Neam Nam has two or three of the iron missiles already alluded to, suspended by a leather button to the inside of the shield, lying directly over the handle of it, the whole of which, and a couple of lances, he grasps in his left hand, whilst with a lance in the right hand he assails his enemy. The iron weapon, when employed, is thrown with great force, and in such a manner as to revolve upon its centre when spinning through the air, therefore the wound created by such an instrument must be a fearful one.

The shield made of so light a substance will not repel a lance, but when struck by one, the combatant giving it a slight movement, either to the right or left, counteracts the penetration of the lance, which, becoming entangled and suspended in it, furnishes him with his enemy's weapon, in lieu of his own, which he is supposed to cast.

Attached to his waistbelt is a knife, suspended by a ring to the scabbard, hilt downwards, which perhaps is the most convenient way of drawing it, being easily done without requiring the assistance of the left hand, and, fitting tight, undergoes no risk of falling out. The point of the sheath, it will be observed, is turned outwards, so as effectually to prevent its injuring its owner in case of a fall or whilst stooping.

The negroes generally trust less to a shield to ward off a lance or threatened missile than to their great agility in jumping out of its way, at which they are exceedingly clever, and their frequent complaint against fire-arms is, that, not being able to see the ball, they cannot evade it.

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