African Throwing Knives
African throwing knives have a long history in African culture. These weapons were used by various tribes for hunting, warfare, and self-defence. They were also used in ceremonial dances and rituals. The knife was a symbol of power and strength, and its use in ceremonies reinforced these qualities in the warrior.
African throwing knives are typically made from iron, steel, or bronze. They were designed with a thin blade that is sharp on both edges and had a pointed tip. The handles were often made from wood or animal horn, and they were sometimes decorated with intricate carvings or beadwork.
The use of the African throwing knives extends across the whole continent of Africa from Gabon in the West, where they were called Kota, to the Upper Nile in the East where they were called Kpinga, Kpenga or Hunga Munga, to the south where they were used by Zulu warriors.
Other names given to the African throwing knives are Danisco, Goleyo, Njiga, Fali, Laka, Teda, Nzakara, Ngombe, Banda, etc. In fact, there are dozens of names for them. The names are as varied as the cultures and languages of the people that used them. Their design also changes greatly according to their location of origin. Some of these weapons even assume the form of a bird’s head.
Due to the immense cultural richness of these weapons, it is impossible to cover them all in one single article. Therefore, we will concentrate on just two types of African Throwing Knifes: The Mambele and the Kpinga.
The Mambele Knife
The current theory is that African throwing knives, used by warriors for hunting and warfare, began as the Mambele knife and its use spread throughout Africa, giving rise to the different designs and names of the weapon.
The Mambele knife was later adopted by other tribes in the region, such as the Azande and the Ngbaka, and eventually spread to other parts of Africa. It became popular among warriors in various tribes and was used in many conflicts and battles.
The Mambele knife is a unique and deadly weapon that has a deep history. It has its origins in Central Africa, specifically in the region now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was used by the Mangbetu people, a tribe that lived in what is now north-eastern Congo, as a weapon of war.
It has a curved blade that is sharpened on both sides, similar to a sickle. The blade is typically between 12 and 24 inches long and is attached to a wooden or metal handle that is also curved. The handle is designed to fit comfortably in the hand and provide a secure grip when using the knife.
It is a heavy weapon, weighing between 2 and 4 pounds. The weight of the knife is concentrated in the blade, which makes it easier to use in close combat. The heavy blade also allows the knife to penetrate deeper into the target, making it more effective as a killing weapon.
Usage of the Mambele Knife
The throwing technique for African throwing knives varies depending on the type of knife and the purpose of its use. Some throwing knives are designed to be thrown at a distance, while others are meant to be used in close-quarters combat. Additionally, some knives are intended to be thrown with a spin, while others are thrown with a straight throw.
The Mambele knife was primarily used as a weapon of war. Warriors would use these knives in hand-to-hand combat to take out enemies or to disarm opponents. One of the most distinctive features of the Mambele knife is the hook at the end of the blade. The hook is used to catch and disarm an opponent’s weapon or to pull an enemy towards the user. The hook also increases the chances of hitting the target, as it creates a wider area of impact.
The Mambele knife was also used for hunting, particularly for large games such as antelopes and buffalo. The curved blade and heavy weight of the knife made it an effective weapon for taking down these animals.
Whether as a weapon or a symbol of power, the Mambele knife remains an important part of African culture and history.
The Kpinga Knife
The Kpinga throwing knife has been widely documented as a functional weapon and deadly weapon used in battle. Compared to other types of throwing knives in Africa, the kpinga is considered one of the more aerodynamic “winged” varieties that are suited for throwing. In contrast, the “F-shaped” throwing knives, which are less aerodynamic.
These knives were known for their effectiveness in battle and were used by warriors from different tribes in Africa as a throwing weapon and also as a melee weapon in hand-to-hand combat. The Kpinga throwing knife was used by the Chokwe tribe in Angola, the Kuba people of the Congo, and other tribes across the continent. The name Kpinga is derived from the word “kpenga,” which means “to throw” in the Chokwe language.
The Kpinga knife was particularly used by the Azande people. The Azande people originally come from Nubia, which was an ancient kingdom in the region that includes southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
The Azande people placed significant cultural value on weapons such as the kpinga. These weapons were considered “Court Metal,” meaning they were created only with the support of the influential Avongara clan, and were then distributed to professional soldiers during times of war.
The knives were also used for hunting, as they were effective in killing large animals such as antelopes and buffalos. They were also used in ceremonial dances and rituals.
Much like the Mambele Knife, The Kpinga throwing knife is a heavy weapon, weighing between 2 and 4 pounds, with most of the weight concentrated on the blade, which makes it easier to throw accurately. The blade is typically between 12 and 24 inches long and is attached to a wooden handle that is also curved.
Usage of the Kpinga Knife
One of the most distinctive features of the Kpinga throwing knife is the three points on the blade. These points are located at the top, bottom, and middle of the blade and are used to provide stability when the knife is thrown. The three points also increase the chances of hitting the target, as they create a wider area of impact.
To use the Kpinga throwing knife, a warrior would hold the knife by the handle and throw it at the enemy. The knife would spin in the air and hit the target with great force, often causing fatal injuries. Warriors would often carry multiple knives, as they were not always retrievable after being thrown.
When full-time regiments were expanded to include all capable adult males during large-scale conflicts, the kpinga served as a symbol distinguishing professional soldiers from land-based troops. The kpinga was also closely tied to the notion of masculine strength and power among Zande warriors and was part of the dowry paid by an Azande man to the family of his potential wife.
During battle, the Azande warriors carried their kpinga in a particular manner by hanging them over a central iron disc on the back of their large, oblong shields. The warriors would approach their enemies within a range of ten meters before throwing two to four spears, followed by the release of the kpinga.
Before throwing the kpinga, the warrior would announce their intent to their companions to avoid any misunderstanding and to indicate that the throw was not an act of carelessness. This call might also have been a warning to ensure fair play during battle, as the Azande warriors did not engage in hand-to-hand combat frequently.
The kpinga was thrown in a specific manner depending on the target. The presence of three blades set at varying angles allowed the weapon to cause damage at whatever point it struck, with the large blade inflicting slicing damage and the smaller blades delivering puncture wounds. Even a blow with the blunt handle could cause significant impact injury.
To throw the kpinga, the warrior would bend it slightly underfoot before either throwing it over-arm, creating a curving arc at head height, or under-arm, creating a low, horizontal throw at knee-height. To avoid high throws, the warrior would crouch behind their tall shield, while avoiding low throws required more acrobatic and well-timed leaps. The kpinga was also known to be thrown low to sever the legs of cavalry horses. Even if a high-thrown kpinga caught on a shield, it could cut through or rebound into other nearby warriors.
The Mambele knife is a unique weapon with a distinctive design. It was used by warriors in various African tribes for both hunting and warfare. Its distinctive design and effectiveness in combat have made it a popular weapon among African warriors for centuries.
The Kpinga throwing knife was often used in conjunction with other weapons, such as spears, bows, and arrows. The knives were used in combat to take out enemies from a distance, but they could also be used in hand-to-hand combat when the enemy got too close.
Their unique design and effectiveness in combat have made them a popular weapon among African warriors for centuries. Today, the Kpinga throwing knife is still used by some martial artists and enthusiasts, who appreciate its unique design and historical significance.
These weapons continue to be an important symbol of African heritage and are cherished by many people around the world.
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