From the collection of: Mauro Coltorti

Attribution

19th century - Likely Hausa or Nupe

Comments

This takouba belongs to a type that have flat, native made blades of good quality. Typically they are wide, short and feature well made brass hilts. These were items that likely presented status as well as being functional weapons. Modern courts in Cameroon like Adamawa Emirate show court guards still carrying similar wide bladed takouba. Both in Nupe and Hausa society these men would often be slaves. However slavery in this context was not a question of forced labour, in these societies they enjoyed high ranks without the ruling courts, positions of power like tax gathering and were often found in the military as well.

It is then logical to think the somewhat exaggerated proportions of this style of takouba are also a way to mark out those who were allowed to carry them.

This particular example is a classic example of this type and features a beautiful brass “blade stopper” and intricate decorative work on the hilt. The blade is deeply pitted and shows signs of good age. The decorative elements and design motifs are all typical and classical geometric designs found on almost all takouba from these areas. These designs are found throughout Hausa art, on textiles and as decorative elements in architecture.

Unfortunately it is difficult to pin down an exact ethnic attribution to these. In Hausa society and especially in Nupe society it is noted that the bulk of the military was made up of slaves and mercenaries. Even the specialized heavy cavalry would often be slaves and could come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. A healthy trade in the blades and skills to produce the hilts also existed between major cities in the region as documented in the accounts of period travellers like Barth, who noted the massive sword industry in Kano. Other Hausa cities like Zinder were also well known for producing weapons.

This is a superb example of a wide bladed takouba and is set apart by its unusual brass blade decoration.

Measurements

Total Length: 87cm