Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft
Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft
Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft
Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft
Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft
Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft
Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft
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Shona tribe axe with wire bound shaft

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Ceremonial tribal axe from the Shona tribe in zimbabwe. Late 19thC or early 20thC.


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According to the Shona people, Gano, also known as humbwa or tsomho, is a cultural and utility axe. It is smaller and lighter than the normal axe. The gano is very popular during cultural festivals or religious ceremonies as it comes handy during accompanying dances. It served as a symbol of cultural and spiritual prestige. (The Patriot).

* Ellert 1984 p37-39

“[T]he humbwa or gano … was much used for defence and hunting. The hunting of elephants by men armed with the gano is vividly reported upon by early Portuguese chroniclers ….

“The gano or battle axe can be divided into two separate types[;] the first is the large semi-circular bladed weapon (ruwe) where the axe head is attached to the handle (manyenza) as pictured in the illustrations. The central metal stem is often decorated with cross-hatching and other designs during manufacture. Of this type, some are more sturdy than others according to the intended purpose. Gano used for elephant hunting is very strong and durable and looks practical and effective.

“The second type of gano appears to be more symbolic or decorative. Whatever the case, many of these weapons are extremely fine pieces of craftsmanship. The gano handle (manyenza) is made from carefully selected fine grain dark or black wood. They are well balanced and often decorated with brass or copper wire. Centuries ago this would have been gold wire. The blades were often inscribed with cross-hatching combining with the rest to produce a truly splendid work of art. Gano of this type generally measures some 50 cm in length with the steel blade some 8 cm to 20 cm from point to point.

[…] “The large semi-circular bladed gano is normally carried slung across the right shoulder of the man while he walks in an area where he might meet trouble. Otherwise, the weapon will be slung across the opposite shoulder — of course depending upon whether he is right or left-handed.”