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In defence of "poor quality" examples

 October 8, 2023    African Arms

Let's start with a very simple statement. This is not a good sword by pretty much any measure you can think of.

The blade is made from relatively soft steel or iron. The hilt is not particularly sturdy, the pommel is very basic and crudely made and the scabbard fittings are basic and display relatively little skill.

This whole ensemble points to a sword made in basic circumstances with available material. Likely a village product from the late 19th century to perhaps the 1930s made by the sort of smith who probably spent is time also making ax heads, hoes and other vital accouterments of an agrarian life style. Based on the little provenance that came with the piece I suspect this particular example is from Niger. Quite possibly Hausa.

You are probably wondering why, as someone who has takouba of much greater age, rarity and quality, I would seek out and purchase a sword like this.

The answer is perhaps best summed up by the next image.

This sword was used and used extensively. It illustrates how the takouba form was not only a matter of imported blades being hilted in large metropolitan centers for use by the privileged and weathly, but a pervasive style.

All the elements speak to a rich simplicity, the guard is a forge weld of two pieces of iron.

The pommel, two halves hammered and crimped together.

So, this is definitely not a "good" sword. But it holds valuable information. More than another European triple fuller trade blade would give me. It shows the properties of the iron, smelting and forging in the area it was made. It displays the focus of the maker, having no extraneous decorative elements and finally it was obviously used over many years.

Simple, workmanlike swords should not be discounted by collectors. The tend to represent a more insightful picture of the culture and people that used and produced them than the fancy examples with little wear often favored by collectors.

We often tend to forget swords were weapons. Tools on the battlefield and not merely the objects of cultural heritage and art that they are often sold as. A simple example like this sums of that fact far more eloquently than I can put into words.