Pitts River Museum

Gun-flint maker’s kit (1914.76.33)

 This kit belonged to a Shawia gun-flint maker and consists of finished and unfinished flints, flakes and a miniature pick.

The Shawia (Chaouia) are a nomadic Berber group living in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria. The ethnologist Melville Hilton-Simpson made studies of the Shawia before the First World War. In his book about them, he recalled meeting a native man who made a living from carving flints for flintlock muskets. He used a large stone to chip flakes from the core and a small pick (gedum) for trimming and screwing up the jaws on the lock. A single flint would last up to twenty shots. The flintlock had become obsolete in Europe by the mid-1800s but was used in parts of Asia and Africa until the 20th century.

Flissa (1884.24.121)

This flissa or flyssa is the distinctive weapon of the Kabyle Berber people of Algeria. Since they vary in length they are sometimes classed as swords, sometimes as knives. Unlike many North African swords which are fitted with European blades, the flissa blade is without exception of local manufacture.

Such weapons were used to break open chain mail, which was still worn in this part of the world until the 19th century. The blade is single-edged for cutting but also has a tapering point for stabbing. This typical example has an octagonal grip, animal head pommel and decoratively incised blade.

Read morehttp://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/africa/arms-and-armour-africa-2/index.html

Fighting Ring (1922.12.8)

The distribution o finger hooks and finger knives coincides closely with that of fighting bracelets. These are found among several Nilotic and Nilo-Hanitic peoples of the Sudan, northern Kenya and Uganda and among some West African peoples in, for example, northern Nigeria.

Read morehttp://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/africa/arms-and-armour-africa-22/index.html

Crossbow (1884.16.2)

This wooden crossbow was used by the Fang and Mpongwe peoples of Gabon in west-central Africa. It has a rare and archaic ‘split stock’ trigger mechanism and was used with either iron-headed or poisoned arrows. This crossbow played a central part in anthropologists’ understanding of the spread and development of crossbows. Its acquisition in the mid 19th century also featured, on a wider scale, in a study on hitherto relatively unknown region and peoples in equatorial Africa.

Read morehttp://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/africa/crossbow-1884162-224/index.html

Bakatwa (1905.45.1)

The bakatwa is a double-edged sword of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, used in religious ceremonies. This example dates to the 19th century. It has a distinctive blade, one half being recessed and painted a dark colour, a carved ebony scabbard and a hilt plaited and bound in brass wire.

Read more: http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/africa/arms-and-armour-africa-10/index.html

This Museum is amazing; the PittsRiver Museum goes into depth on armor/weaponry of Africa and much more. Checkout all the pieces: http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/africa/arms-and-armour-africa-39/index.html http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/africa/index.html

Home/Galleries by Region: http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/weapons/index.php/tour-by-region/oceania/index.html


African Threads in the American Fabric

Martin Moeller: In what ways have vernacular African building traditions influenced American architecture?

Richard Dozier: Broadly speaking, the major contributions were primarily [in the areas of] response to climate and use of materials. Slaves coming to the New World had a familiarity with natural materials like sun-dried brick and they had exceptional skills at carving wood, making plaster molds, working iron—and these techniques soon had an impact on how everyone was building.

In the South, of course, we can attribute the domestic porch to African influence in response in part to climate [see related article on page 4]. In African village life, shared space—courtyards, etc.—was important. And shelter from the heat was obviously important. In America, these things came together in the porches that we now take for granted.

Africanisms in African-American Material Culture:
An Annotated Bibliography

Contrary to the beliefs of some historians, sociologist and anthropologists, neither the Middle Passage nor Colonial America acculturation completely erased memories of the domestic arts Africans practice before they were enslaved in the Americas. The tendency once was to assume that in those instances where Africans did not bring African-made artifacts with them in the slave ships, there was no possibility that any of them would be able to reproduce their ancestral material culture.

The appearance of artifacts, particularly in the Southern states of North America, areas of South America and the Caribbean, confirm the survival of African practices in the material culture of African-Americans in regions where Africans were enslaved. The survival of these cultural artifacts is a reality that exists three hundred years later in physical realities.

This bibliography is a listing of journal articles, books, museum catalogs and Internet Sites that document material culture Africanisms among the peoples of African descent, focusing on North America, and the New World culture they helped to create. Extensive research into African American music genres, musical instruments and folk tales has been done by numerous scholars. Even though material culture survival studies began long before Melville Herskovits’ Myth of the African Past, the widespread recognition of truths unveiled through these studies have not become as much a part of our popular culture as the acceptance of African influences on American visual and aural arts.

Black Architect Has A Rich History

On this date, we celebrate African American architecture. Blacks have been involved in building and architecture since the colonial era of America.

The plantation system relied heavily on slave craftsmen imported from Africa. Written records and examination of many of these buildings, such as Magnolia in Plaquemine’s Paris in 1785, the Gippy Plantation, in South Carolina, Windsor Hall in Greenville, Georgia, indicate slave involvement. Some slave artisans were hired out to other owners such as James Bell of Virginia, who was sent to Alabama to construct three spiral staircases for the Watkins-Moore-Grayson mansion.

Read more from National Building Museum



Read more from Indiana University Library 


Read more from African American Registry


Ancient African Mathematics and Ancient Civilizations by Michael Tellinger

Africa is home to the world’s earliest known use of measuring and calculation, confirming the continent as the birthplace of both basic and advanced mathematics. Thousands of years ago, Africans were using numerals, algebra and geometry in daily life. This knowledge spread throughout the entire world after a series of migrations out of Africa, beginning around 30,000 BC, and later following a series of invasions of Africa by Europeans and Asians (1700 BC-present).


The oldest complex Mathematical System was found in 1950 in Eastern Congo in the region known as Ishango. It is a carved bone which consisted of notches on 3 faces on the carved bone. These notches suggests an ancient knowledge of multiplication and prime numbers using the number 12 as the base number.

Southern Africa is home to the oldest known signs of human intelligence on earth, suggesting it might be the birthplace of civilization. At the Blombos cave near the coast of modern-day South Africa, archaeologists have discovered 75,000 year old artistic engravings and 80,000 year old tools. The site also shows evidence of fishing, dating back to perhaps 140,000 years.


Kingdom of Mapungubwe (1075–1220): Lost City of Gold

The kingdom of Mapungubwe was a pre-colonial state in southern Africa located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers south of Great Zimbabwe. The kingdom, which built stone walls to mark important areas, was the first stage in a development that would culminate in the creation of the kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 13th century and with gold-trading links to Rhapta and Kilwa Kisiwani on the African east coast. The kingdom of Mapungubwe lasted about 70 years. At its height, its population was about 5,000 people.

One thousand years ago, Mapungubwe in Limpopo province was the centre of the largest kingdom in the subcontinent, where a highly sophisticated people traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt.


Read more: http://www.southafrica.info/about/history/mapungubwe.htm#ixzz3HggZRudy






ASACA: Arts Council of The African Studies Association

ACASA, the Arts Council of the African Studies Association, promotes greater understanding of African material and expressive culture in all its many forms, and encourages contact and collaboration with African and Diaspora artists and scholars.


Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue Opens November 9, 2014

One of the world’s preeminent private collections of African American art will have its first public viewing later this year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue brings together artworks from two world-class collections: the National Museum of African Art and the Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. Collection. The exhibition, which opens at the museum Nov. 9 and remains on view through early 2016, is a major part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, celebrating its unique history and contributions toward furthering meaningful dialogue between Africa and the African diaspora.



Building the world’s largest radio telescope

In 2012, South Africa won the bid to host the largest part of the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project. It will consist of more than 2,500 telescopes spread out across the nation and partner countries in Africa. The combined signals from these antennae, along with those in Australia, will form the largest radio telescope in the world.



October Feast: IMPUNDULU


The Impundulu is a bird from the mythology of Pondo, Xhosa and Zulu from Africa. The name translates as ‘Lightning Bird’. It is as large as a human and is coloured black and white. However some stated that the bird had red to green irredescent feather much like that of a peacock. It gets its name from its power to summon lightning bolts from its wings and talons. Sometimes the bird would transform into a handsome charming young man who seduced women. These women would become its victims as the bird ferociously killed them and sucked their blood.

– See more at: http://www.mythicalcreatureslist.com/mythical-creature/Impundulu#sthash.dvavvKRE.dpuf

11 Legendary Monsters of Africa

I’ll only showcase three here; to find out about the rest go to http://mentalfloss.com/article/12818/11-legendary-monsters-africa.

The Inkanyamba is a huge carnivorous eel-like animal in the legends of the Zulu and Xhosa people of South Africa. The ancient legends say Inkanyambas can control the weather. They are said to have fins and/or flippers and grow to tremendous size. There are actually freshwater eels abundant in South Africa that grow to around six feet long, but that pales in comparison to the stories of the Inkanyamba.

A flying monster called Kongamato in Zambia, Angola, and Congo is described as a flying reptile we may recognize as a pterosaur. It was first described in English by explorer Frank Welland in 1932, although local legend goes back much further. This cryptid lives in rivers and swamps and has a huge wingspan, but no feathers. A similar creature goes by other names in other parts of Africa. Theories on Kongomato sightings range from bad lighting to the possibility that an unknown species may exist in inaccessible places. Of course, the image is familiar to us thanks to Hollywood.

The Impundulu or Lightning Bird is a supernatural bird from Pondo, Zulu, and Xhosa folklore. The South African bird is as big as a human and can summon lightning and storms, hence the name. The bird is sometimes a shape shifter that can appear as a human, and sometimes said to be a supernatural familiar that guards a witch or witch doctor. It will attack people and drink their blood. However, parts of the Impundulu or its eggs have medicinal powers. Image by DeviantART member Amadoodles.

To find out about the others on the list, go to http://mentalfloss.com/article/12818/11-legendary-monsters-africa

BBC BBAF Mandela Lecture: Akala

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