Bird’s head axe

19 May 2020

This bird head axe is a “mythical” weapon much sought after by collectors and lovers of African art. These axes probably derive from jet knives used throughout Gabon and part of Congo Brazzavile, but more particularly in Kota and Fang countries.

Among the Kota of Ivindo, this axe is used as part of the initiation rites of the male secret society of the “Mungala”. Dignitaries use it during acrobatic dances reserved for initiates. The leader of the dance plays the role of the monster “Mungunda”: he drags himself on the ground, while shouting and brandishing the axe with which he tries to hurt the initiates who must jump over him as vigorously as possible.

Osele bird head axe
Axe. Gabon. H. 33,5 cm. Inv. 1019-405 .
Photo Studio Ferrazzini Bouchet. MUSEE BARBIER-MUELLER.

Read more about this type of axes in Arts & Cultures 2020 or in De fer et de fierté, 2003 (French edition only).