Forensic Fashion
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>Costume Studies
>>1878 Congolese warrior
Subject: mercenary warrior
Culture: tribal Congolese = Mongo, Ngombe, ...
Setting: Congo late 19th-early 20thc





Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)

* Vandervort 1998 p139
"In the beginning the private army King Leopold had decreed into existence in 1886, the Force Publique, was composed largely of African mercenaries recruited outside the Congo.  Of the original 2,000 other ranks of the force, only 111 were Congolese.  Preference in early recruiting was give to that much sought after 'martial race', the Hausas of the Central Sudan.  In the end, however, these foreign mercenaries proved to be too expensive and local recruiting was intensified.  In 1891, chiefs were ordered to produce a certain number of recruits per year, and a militia was founded from which men could be drafted to fill out the ranks in emergencies.  In 1900 the term of enlistment in the Force Publique was raised from five to seven years.  The Free State also used large numbers of irregulars in its campaigns.  The Azande people of the north Congo and the Batetela people, who lived between the Sankuru and the Lomami rivers in the south central area of the Congo, were frequently employed in this capacity.  The main attraction was the promise of booty."


Spear




Shield








Swords (Girafe, Kumu, Ngala)

* Higgins Armory Museum > Scimitars to Samurai
"Blade Weapons of the Congo  
[T]he astounding variety of Congolese blade weapons ... is unparalleled elsewhere in the world.  The bold, asymmetrical blades come in all shapes and sizes; different styles served to identify the bearer's family, tribe, age, or social affiliations.
    "Some of these types are occasionally referred to as 'throwing knives.'  Only a few varieties are actually balanced for throwing, and even these have ranges under 50 yards, making them less effective than the spears and arrows traditionally used by African warriors.  But the eye-catching shapes also served for intimidation and display, making the weapons useful as symbols of status and masculinity.  Ornamented versions often served as emblems of leadership, or as ritual tools in the hands of healers, and some variants were even created to be used as money."

* Withers & Capwell 2010 p79
"Congolese Ngala knives appear in three main forms.  The first is very long, double-edged and curved in a shallow, graceful arc.  The second is shorter and wider, the blade often  tear-shaped with one or two ridges.  The third is almost a form of machete -- wide-bladed and long, decorated with ridges, profuse file-lines and cross-hatching.  The leading edge is recurved and the trailing edge cut into a series of cuspings, the point forming a stout hook.  These knives were often taken to be decapitation implements, but are more likely to have had ceremonial significance.  Closely related to the Ngala knife is that of the neighbouring Ndjembo.  This is of similar length but straight until it divides into two long points that curve inwards in a crescent shape."