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Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa - Culture - Nairaland

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Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:43am On Apr 07, 2013
This thread will show some rarely seen drawings and photographs of various places, people, and objects from black Africa that are from the precolonial era, the earliest colonial era times, and a few photos from later colonial era times. In addition, some modern photographs of rarely seen African artwork from the distant past may be posted.

Most of the images will be from the Ross Archive of African Images (RAAI) from Yale university, but I'll also get some other images from other sources where available, especially if I decide to continue the thread past more than a few pages. I'll also post many (but not all) of the captions to the pictures that are supplied at the sites where I find them. Some of the captions are from people who were writing before the rise of political correctness and cultural sensitivity and may not be exactly objective, inoffensive or totally accurate, but may nevertheless be informative and will be included anyway.

For other people that want to find historical photographs, drawings, art, etc. from a certain part of Africa, apart from the RAAI website (which I strongly recommend), this is also a good resource:

http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/photographs.html#historical

That Stanford page has links to many other online collections, galleries, archives, etc. that have historical images from earlier eras in Africa. Some of the websites it links to are in other languages (such as French) but mostly they are in English.

The selection posted on this thread will mostly be of whatever images representing a certain cultural practice, place, event, object, individual, etc. that I find interesting or unique, but I encourage other people to post any rarely seen or interesting African historical images that they may have come across.

I do ask that people who do post don't fill the thread with widespread or common pictures of well known West African or Central African artwork though, since there are already some threads on this forum that have some of that other artwork. I will post a little bit of that artwork on the thread on occasion, but the few that I post will be images of artwork that I believe have rarely been seen and which cannot be easily found/accessed elsewhere online.

My focus will probably be heavily on West Africa, Central Africa, and probably a bit of Southern Africa, but I'll try and get some East African images in the thread where possible. But other posters that want to contribute can post more interesting East African images that they find.

I'll probably end up jumping back and forth a lot between different places and cultures in Africa but when possible I'll try to post culturally/geographically related images close together.

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Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 9:42am On Apr 07, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/5/0/62740_images_image_5059_medium.jpg[/img]

"Caption: Ijo Juju and Jekri Combs"

Source: 1899. Granville, Reginald K. and Felix N. Roth. "Notes on the Jekris, Sobos and Ijos of the Warri District of the Niger Coast Protectorate." The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. I.


[The Ijaw "juju" referred to by the authors is the wooden sculpture of a reptile. "Jekri" = Itsekiri.]



[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/5/0/95655_images_image_5058_image.jpg[/img]

"Caption: Jekri Paddles."

Source: 1899. Granville, Reginald K. and Felix N. Roth. "Notes on the Jekris, Sobos and Ijos of the Warri District of the Niger Coast Protectorate." The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. I.

["Jekri" = Itsekiri. These are carved wooden canoe paddles.]

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Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 9:54am On Apr 07, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/7/2/24358_images_image_7240_image.jpg[/img]

Source: 1913. Marquart, Jos (Joseph). Die Benin-Sammlung des Reichsmuseums für Völkerkunde in Leiden : beschrieben und mit ausführlichen Prolegomena zur Geschichte der Handelswege und Völkerbewegungen in Nordafrika.

A small excerpt of the translation of the commentary on this image: "These paddles aren’t from Benin, but rather are probably from the Jekris in the neighborhood of Benin; similar pieces, whose provenance are certain, are owned by the Pitt Rivers Museum."
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by Nobody: 1:09pm On Apr 07, 2013
Interesting...
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 5:31pm On Apr 07, 2013
Alright, so the spambot hid my last post in here and banned me for a day (although the post clearly isn't spam), until I asked that the mod unban me and unhide my post, which he did (thanks Odumchi).

So I think I'm going to post the pictures I found more slowly, at more spread out intervals of time, so that the spam bot may be less likely to ban me and hide the posts. If the spambot continues acting this way that would be unfortunate since there are many very interesting pictures that I found on the RAAI and a few other sites and I would have liked to get a lot of them posted in this thread quickly instead of updating the thread slowly.

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Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by coYah(m): 11:15pm On Apr 07, 2013
interesting post...the paddles look to have wing creatures on the top. Can anyone tell me what they symbolize?
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 7:51am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/3/55884_images_image_319_medium.jpg[/img]

'Publication: 1912. Talbot, P. Amaury. In the Shadow of the Bush.

Original language: English

Caption:

Egbo House

Text:

“The first town beyond the Oban-Ikom boundary is Abijang. Here the Ekoi have intermarried to a considerable extent with their neighbours in the twin town of Akam, which came over from Obubra and settled so close to Abijang that at first sight the two towns seem to form only one. The decoration of some of the compounds, and of the Egbo house, is different to that in most Ekoi towns, though a little later we came on a particularly beautiful example of this style made by an Oban man. Instead of the pattern being moulded in relief on the surface of the wall, after the latter has been roughly mudded to form a background, the design here is first marked on the surface, which is then dug out between the lines, so as to leave the pattern raised. This is afterwards picked out in white paint, and over all raised figures are sometimes added, in the same manner as those of other parts. The figures shown in the drawing were variously explained as Obassi Osaw, his wife and Nimm (Snake), Obassi Osaw and Nimm in her three shapes (woman, snake, and crocodile), Obassi Osaw and Obassi Nsi with Nimm.” (pp. 216-217) '


(This image is from the RAAI website. The source of the image is Talbot's 1912 book and the quote above describing the Egbo house is by him.)

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Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:01am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/3/92984_images_image_324_medium.jpg[/img]

'Publication: 1912. Talbot, P. Amaury. In the Shadow of the Bush.

Original language: English

Caption: Interior of Egbo House'



Part of Talbot's comment on the interior: "As soon as the private dwellings are finished, the inhabitants set about building an Egbo house, nearly always on the plan given on the previous page. This style of architecture is singularly well adapted to the conditions of the country. The open front, and many loop holes, sheltered by overhanging eaves, provide the maximum of air with the minimum of glare—while complete protection is afforded against tornadoes. Perhaps the most important part of the whole structure is the "Etai Ngbe," the long, cut stone, usually found standing before the second pillar. When this stone is first erected in a new town, every chief has to bring food in a calabash, and palm wine in an earthenware pot. A part is offered in sacrifice, and the rest eaten." (p. 265)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:06am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/3/10176_images_image_325_medium.jpg[/img]

Publication: 1912. Talbot, P. Amaury. In the Shadow of the Bush.

Original language: English

Caption: Typical Pillar in Egbo House

Text: "Perhaps the most important part of the whole structure is the " Etai Ngbe," the long, cut stone, usually found standing before the second pillar. When this stone is first erected in a new town, every chief has to bring food in a calabash, and palm wine in an earthenware pot. A part is offered in sacrifice, and the rest eaten. The Stone is often transformed by rude painting into the rough semblance of a human being. A cap is made to fit the upper end, and iron in some form, is always present, either in bars twisted round the stone, or laid below it." (p. 265)

Illustration technique: studio engraving

Publication page: 265

Keywords:
• Cross River (Country, region, place)
• Nigeria (Country, region, place)
• carved stone (Materials and techniques)
• cap (Notable features)
• figurated (Notable features)
• abstract (Notable features)
• sacrifice pillar (Object name, type)
• Ekpo shrine (Object name, type)
• Ejagham (Style, culture group)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:13am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/3/28333_images_image_305_medium.jpg[/img]

Publication: 1912. Talbot, P. Amaury. In the Shadow of the Bush.

Original language: English

Caption: Pillar in Egbo House with carved figure of Nimm in crocodile form

Text: "Everywhere in Ekoi mythology, the cult of the snake is found to be closely connected with that of the crocodile. In many of the Egbo houses a representation of the former is to be seen modelled in high relief on the wall at the farther end, while the crocodile is usually found carved on the principal pillar. Those families who are members of the Cult of Nimm, [...] never drive a snake from their houses, but take powdered chalk and strew before the visitor, very softly, so as not to frighten it in any way. Should a snake enter a house not protected by Nimm, the owner must consult the "Diviner" in order to find out if it is sent by ghosts or " Juju." (pp. 24-25)

Illustration technique: studio engraving

Keywords:
• Cross River (Country, region, place)
• Nigeria (Country, region, place)
• carved wood (Materials and techniques)
• crocodile figure (Notable features)
• Egbo pillar (Notable features)
• Nimm cult object (Object name, type)
• Ejagham (Style, culture group)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by pleep(m): 8:19am On Apr 09, 2013
THAT IS A PHALLIC SYMBOL: EDVIDENCE OF PRE-COLONIAL PROMISCUITY
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:20am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/3/29359_images_image_304_medium.jpg[/img]


Publication: 1912. Talbot, P. Amaury. In the Shadow of the Bush.

Original language: English

Caption: Emblems of Obassi Nsi

Text: "In the central atrium of almost every compound is set a little group, consisting usually of a growing tree, carved post and sacrificial stone, sacred to one or other of the Deities. By far the greater number of these are dedicated to Obassi Nsi, as is shown by the coco yams planted, or laid in a small heap, close by. [...] Before beginning the work of the day, each man or woman who still clings to the old custom, takes a calabash of water and goes into the central court to wash. With eyes lifted to the newly-risen sun they pray : 'Eyo ofu, eyo egu, 'me eyange eyange.' 'Sun of morning, sun of evening, let me (be) free from danger (to-day).' This is done because the sun is supposed to be deputed by Obassi to receive all prayers offered on earth, and carry them before him."

Illustration technique: field engraving

Publication page: 21

Keywords:
• Cross Rivers (Country, region, place)
• Oban (Country, region, place)
• Nigeria (Country, region, place)
• anthropomorphic (Notable features)
• cocoa yams (Notable features)
• cylindrical (Notable features)
• ritual stake (Object name, type)
• sacred post (Object name, type)
• shrine figure (Object name, type)
• Ejagham (Style, culture group)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:23am On Apr 09, 2013
pleep: PHALLIC SYMBOL: EDVIDENCE OF PRE-COLONIAL PROMISCUITY

lol, I only just noticed the phallic shape of it after reading this comment of yours grin . .I'm not sure every pillar in every culture was/is a phallic symbol though. It seems, from what Talbot wrote about these pillars, that they had a deep religious significance, but no real s3xual connotations.

1 Like

Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:26am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/3/16896_images_image_326_medium.jpg[/img]

Publication: 1912. Talbot, P. Amaury. In the Shadow of the Bush.

Text: "The musical faculty of this people is certainly wonderful, though developed along peculiar lines. They have a consider able number of musical instruments, but among these the drum reigns supreme. Of this there are many varieties, from the small boy's tom-tom, about 6 inches high, to the long drums almost the height of a man, and the great drum of the town, which is an object of reverence to the inhabitants, and in honour of which many songs are composed. [...] The study of the drum is well worth the attention of officials, as it is possible in this way not only to know what is going on in native towns round one—for every event has its different tune by which to summon the inhabitants, such as Egbo and Juju performances, wrestling bouts, &c.—but one is able to learn the drum language, and so interpret almost every secret message sent in warning to counteract one's orders or plans. Two drums are generally beaten, of which the first leads while the second responds. ... When only one performer is available, he beats the two drums. The combinations are so limitless that any attempt to do more than indicate the method employed would but weary my readers. " (pp. 297, 298)

Illustration technique: studio engraving

Keywords:
• Cross River (Country, region, place)
• Nigeria (Country, region, place)
• hide (Materials and techniques)
• wood (Materials and techniques)
• carved (Materials and techniques)
• bent knees (Notable features)
• legs (Notable features)
• torso (Notable features)
• anthropomorphic (Object name, type)
• Ekpo drum (Object name, type)
• Ejagham (Style, culture group)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:33am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/6/2/36079_images_image_6272_image.jpg[/img]

Publication: 1885. Ratzel, Friedrich. Völkerkunde, Vol. I.

Original language: German

Caption translation: A punt from the Upper Congo (after Stanley).

Caption: Ein Kahn vom obern Kongo (nach Stanley)

Illustration technique: b/w field engraving

Publication page: 191

Keywords:
• Congo-Kinshasa (Country, region, place)
• Upper Congo (Country, region, place)
• lizard (Notable features)
• ornamental bas-relief (Notable features)
• reptile (Notable features)
• dugout canoe (Object name, type)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:39am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/1/2/74152_images_image_1230_medium.jpg[/img]

Publication: 1885. Ratzel, Friedrich. Völkerkunde, Vol. I.

Original language: German

Caption translation: Harps of the Niam-Niam (Christy Collection, London)

Caption: Harfen der Niam-Niam (Christy Collection, London)

Text translation: "All of these folk [Bongo, Zulu, Njam-Njam, Tuareg] are skilled in wood carving. The ornament the feet of chairs with rich carvings. They also depict humans (but one can not view these figures immediately as idols) and carve good spoons from wood. The beautiful harps with necks ending in carved animal or human heads and which have made their way from the (p. 533) Niam-Niam to the Bongo and farther to other neighboring folk, show the skill and fineness of their work (see reproduction below. This branch of the arts is particularly developed among the Bongo in the plentiful figures with which they decorate their villages, thrones and graves. Entire rows of such figures are found carved from wood on the posts surrounding the entrances of villages, on decorated gates, or standing near the huts of the Njere (oldest) immortalizing the memorial of some exemplary personality from the community.” [Transcribed from German Fraktur] (pp. 533-534)

Illustrator: G. Mützel G. Mützel, signed "G.M."

Illustration technique: studio engraving

Keywords:
• Congo-Kinshasa (Country, region, place)
• Sudan (Country, region, place)
• skin (Materials and techniques)
• string (Materials and techniques)
• wood (Materials and techniques)
• bird (Notable features)
• human (Notable features)
• rabbit (Notable features)
• figurated finial (Notable features)
• heads (Notable features)
• harp guitar (Object name, type)
• musical instrument (Object name, type)
• Zande (Style, culture group)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:46am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/6/8/91533_images_image_6859_medium.jpg[/img]

Publication: 1870. Guernsey, A.H. "Paul du Chaillu Once More." Harper's Magazine, Vol. 39, No. 236 (January).

Original language: English

Caption: A Royal Canoe.

Text: “‘Our canoes were paddling against the current of the narrow and deep river Rembro. You may well ask yourselves where is the place for which I am bound. If you had seen us you might have thought we were going to make war, for the canoes were full of men who were covered with all their war fetiches; their faces were painted, and they were loaded with implements of war. The drums beat furiously, and the paddlers, as we ascended, were singing war-songs, and at times they would sing praises in honor of their king, saying that Quenguenza was above all kings.’ ‘Quengueza and I were in the royal canoe, a superb piece of wood over sixty feet long, the prow being an imitation of an immense crocodile’s head, whose jaws were wide open, showing its big, sharp, pointed teeth. This was emblematic, and meant that it would swallow all the enemies of the king. In our canoe there were more than sixty paddlers. At the stern was seated old Quengueza, the queen, who held an umbrella over the head of his majesty, and myself; and seated back of us all was Adouma, the king’s nephew, who was armed with an immense paddle, by which he guided the canoe.’” (p. 202)

Illustration technique: field engraving

Keywords:
• Gabon (Country, region, place)
• wood (Materials and techniques)
• crocodile head (Notable features)
• figurated prow (Notable features)
• war canoe (Object name, type)
• Nkomi (Style, culture group)
• Fang (Style, culture group)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 8:51am On Apr 09, 2013
[img]http://raai.library.yale.edu/web/art/2/6/63275_images_image_2673_image.jpg[/img]

Publication: October 1909. Berning, A. "In de Ruïnen der Residentie van Konig Behanzin van Dahomey." De Katholieke Missiën. Geillustreerd Maandschrift, in verbinding met het Lyonsch Weekblad van het Genootschap tot Voortplanting des Geloofs, Vol. 34, No. Aflevering 12.

Original language: Dutch

Caption translation: DAHOMEY. - Snake Temple to Weidah

Caption: DAHOMEY. - Slangentempel te Weidah

Illustrator: Lovier, N.(?) F.; Laplante, C. Lovier, N.(?) F.; Laplante, C., signed by Lovier in LL and by C. Laplante in LR

Keywords:
• Dahomey (Country, region, place)
• Ouidah (Country, region, place)
• République du Bénin (Country, region, place)
• boat (Notable features)
• snake (Notable features)
• European visitors ? (Notable features)
• standing figure (Notable features)
• mural (Object name, type)
• temple (Object name, type)
• wall painting (Object name, type)
• Fon (Style, culture group)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by esere826: 1:39am On Apr 12, 2013
@Physicsqed

The tappered ends of the paddles in the uploaded pix seem to indicate that:
1) they were used in shallow waters ie stab at the river bed and used to push the boat along the waters
2) used in tsabbing at sea animals
3) used to multitask as weapons of defence

Is this the case?
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by Ishilove: 1:49am On Apr 12, 2013
pleep: THAT IS A PHALLIC SYMBOL: EDVIDENCE OF PRE-COLONIAL PROMISCUITY
I disagree
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by Ishilove: 1:55am On Apr 12, 2013
The drawing of that punt seems exaggerated. It would have taken more than two men to row a water vessel of that size.
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by Ishilove: 1:58am On Apr 12, 2013
PhysicsQED:

lol, I only just noticed the phallic shape of it after reading this comment of yours grin . .I'm not sure every pillar in every culture was/is a phallic symbol though. It seems, from what Talbot wrote about these pillars, that they had a deep religious significance, but no real s3xual connotations.

I concur. The pre-colonial African society, if anything were almost Victorian in issues related to s.ex and sexual explicitness was disallowed in many societies.
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by pleep(m): 3:14am On Apr 12, 2013
Ishilove:
I concur. The pre-colonial African society, if anything were almost Victorian in issues related to s.ex and sexual explicitness was disallowed in many societies.
I need more proof of this other than just opinions.

As far as i know... there is simply not enough information to draw an accurate picture about pre-colonial African sexual attitudes. If the present is anything to go by i would say they were extremely loose
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by pleep(m): 3:20am On Apr 12, 2013
Victorian sexual conservatism was all about clothing. Covering the ankles,the ears and sometimes hair... African cultures attiudes about nudity were completely different.
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by Nobody: 3:27am On Apr 12, 2013
^ u are crazy bra
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by pleep(m): 3:39am On Apr 12, 2013
grin ya i know
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by Nobody: 3:43am On Apr 12, 2013
pleep: THAT IS A PHALLIC SYMBOL: EDVIDENCE OF PRE-COLONIAL PROMISCUITY

Damn
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 5:14am On Apr 12, 2013
coYah: interesting post...the paddles look to have wing creatures on the top. Can anyone tell me what they symbolize?

I don't have any idea what they symbolize. But the RAAI website has comments from one of the authors that published images of the paddles. According to the comments on the paddles by Joseph Marquart (from his 1913 publication), the handle of each paddle is a crocodile's head when viewed from above and immediately below this is a lizard climbing upward:

“15th ser. 1165 no. 1. Paddle of brown hardwood with carved decorations on both sides, double blade with open work and round handle with open work in two places. See pl, IX fig. 1 and 6. (Front and back sides). Jaarverslag R.E.M. 1897/8 PL IX fig. 23a, and 23a, a. The upper end of the handle is flattened and expanded into a horizontal rectangle with a triangular tip, which is then open worked and decorated to an equal degree on both sides, as in the comb ser. 1355 no. 2. The point depicts a stylized crocodile head, as in PR 33, 256; the two side openings indicate the eyes, which appear in PR 33, 256 as concave semicircles. Behind this comes, in side view, a lizard climbing upwards in a rectangular frame with vertical notches on the top and diagonal notches on the bottom and the sides. Towards the bottom the rectangle gradually fades into a cylindrical bar. In the middle of this a horizontal cube is left open, which, broken through on all four sides, forms four rectangular arrows, which are each either notched horizontally on the opposite sides or decorated with cut zigzag ridges.

The blade is uniquely formed. The shaft appears to immediately split into two flattened branches, which penetrate into the reverse side of the two blades as middle ribs and gradually flatten and expand; they seem to be reinforced just below the end of the shaft by a wide horizontal ridge. The horseshoe-shape piece this forms is crooked, with vertical notches on the horizontal ridge.

The blades are divided into three zones by wide, smooth horizontal strips. The uppermost zone, in which the blades are still undivided, is heart-shaped and decorated on the front with two stripes of four diamond rows each, beginning on both sides of the branches and converging diagonally after the horizontal ridge. On the reverse side are similar stripes, diagonally notched, while the ends of the two branches are diamond-patterned. Only from the second zone on do the two completely symmetrical blades divide; each blade here has openwork lengthwise and has the same decoration on both sides: a lizard creeping upwards with a horizontally-notched tail and diagonally-notched body between wide diamond-patterned side ridges.

The third zone tapers into a point and is decorated on the front with two stripes of three rows of diamonds each going out from the middle of the horizontal ridge and diverging towards the edges. On the reverse side we see two diamond-patterned equilateral triangles standing next to each other, whose base is formed by the horizontal ridge. [p. 74]

Length 1.755 m, length of the handle .90 m, width of the decorated end .07 m, diameter of the handle .032 m. Width of the double blade .18 m.” (pp. 74-75)
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 5:15am On Apr 12, 2013
Hey pleep, could you edit your earlier post to remove that blue shaft?
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by pleep(m): 5:18am On Apr 12, 2013
haha ok
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 5:18am On Apr 12, 2013
Thanks
Re: Interesting Images From Precolonial And Early Colonial Africa by PhysicsQED(m): 5:24am On Apr 12, 2013
esere826: @Physicsqed

The tappered ends of the paddles in the uploaded pix seem to indicate that:
1) they were used in shallow waters ie stab at the river bed and used to push the boat along the waters
2) used in tsabbing at sea animals
3) used to multitask as weapons of defence

Is this the case?

They probably were used in shallow waters, but could also have been used in deeper lagoons. I've read about the widespread use of canoes in lagoons in west Africa and in the Niger Delta of Nigeria so they probably could have been used there as well.

Maybe they could have been used to stab at animals and possibly could have been used for defense as a last resort, but that doesn't seem likely considering that the paddles were entirely of wood, without any metal. Written descriptions of West Africans in canoes sometimes mention them carrying real weapons on board with them, so it's unlikely that they would have needed to use the paddles as weapons. But you're right that the pointed ends do suggest that they might have been used to fend off threatening animals or something like that.

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