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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Collection/ HK : Kuba Ceremonial Knife (Ikul / Ikula)
Kuba Ceremonial Knife (Ikul / Ikula) - MH.69
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo, Kuba
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 13.98" (35.5cm) high x 3.35" (8.5cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Wood

Additional Information: HK
Location: Great Britain
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Ikul knife, also known as “Peace Knife” is made for ceremonial purpose. Kuba is a very social rank-oriented society. Knives, daggers and swords from the Kuba people are used as prestige items. Owning a knife represented one’s social ranks , different ranks would have more or less elaborated knives. Historical documents indicate that quantities of them were brought to the Congo by Portuguese and Dutch traders beginning around the 16th century. Many daggers were then forged by Congolese blacksmiths to emulate foreign examples. They were reserved for nobles and used for important ceremonial occasions.

While this example is entirely of wood, ikul were often made with highly forged iron blades and, more recently, with aluminium. There is some variety in the pommel shape, with the rounded pommel with a conical protrusion being associated with Bushoong rulers. This association could also suggest a symbolism for the wood blade. According to oral tradition, the ikul was introduced by king Shyaam a Mbul aNgoong in the early 17th century as an emblem of peace. It was intended to contrast with lethal throwing knives, which the king opposed because they represented the infliction of harm without risk, and the equally lethal war sword that required personal combat. The king banned the wearing of the war sword in peacetime unless it was sheathed in cloth.

This ceremonial knife represent a treasures of social significance, we can tell from the medium of this knife is a symbol of peace, as it is made of wood. The geometric patterns on the knife favored in Kuba textile and wood carving.

- (MH.69)


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