This is a ceremonial axe that embodies one of the most exceptional examples known of traditional African wrought iron work. What makes it especially unusual is the added, human element in the form of faces on the central spoke. Axes of this elaborate nature were marks of high prestige and rank; carried by the Tribal Chief during ceremonial events to show his stately power and stature as king with unquestionable authority over his people.
The handle is finely covered by a sheet of beaten copper and held in place with smooth copper pins. The remainder f the axe is made from wrought Iron with double images of Songe masks on each side on the central spoke. This prestigious artform is certainly one of the most extraordinary examples of the virtuoso metalsmith's skill in forging technique. Crowning the effect are the finely wrought heads. "This beautiful Kilonga of blended style comes from the Kananga-Kabinda-Lusambo triangle. It is composed of the purest Beneki's style, decoratively forged in the core of the central axis and adorned with coils of thick coiled and twisted metal strips forming outer spokes from the blade to the neck of the handle. Although widely used by the Songye peoples many of these axes were made by the Nsapo sub-group who had a thriving iron and copper-working industry. The condition is excellent.
For related items see: Frank Herreman, ed. Material Differences, Art and Identity in Africa. New York and Gent: Museum of African Art/Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 2003, cat. 60, ill. (there given to the Nsapo peoples). François Neyt. Songye. Brussels: Fonds Mercator, p. 370, upper right ill. (given there to the Nsapo).