Sunday, 12 December 2010


When I was a boy I loved role-playing "Cowboys and Indians". I always wanted to be a "Red Indian" (Native American), and was especially fond of mock-fighting with a bow and arrows. In one overgrown English garden I fashioned my own flightless arrows from the straight stems of Goldenrod (Solidago sp.), and have looked at this plant wistfully ever since. In many parts of East Africa archery is much more than child's play or a weekend sport, and its technology is correspondingly complex. Like many other aspects of African technology, it is also woefully understudied, as I discovered when I set about investigating Mbeere practice in (what was then) Embu District with the help of Silas Kibwece and other local research assistants in 1992-93. I've never found time to finish writing up the results, though I have posted some notes online (Nyaga 1992; Kibwece 1993; Walsh 1993). Last year I tried photographing a selection of the materials that I'd purchased from rural markets or had made for me at the time (unfortunately I've managed to lose my collection of Mbeere bows). Some of the results are shown below. I prefer the close-ups.
Mbeere iron arrowheads
Rusting Mbeere arrowhead
Painted flight bindings on arrowshafts
Decorated flight bindings
Mbeere arrows with iron arrowheads (minus fletching, eaten by insects)
Mbeere wooden arrows with detachable points
Detachable wooden points, barbed and plain
Splayed shafts and detachable points of wooden arrows
Close-up of splayed shaft and wooden point
Fletching of wooden arrows
Fletching and nock of arrow showing bindings
Close-up of nock
Mbeere leather quiver
Top end of leather quiver showing decoration
Cover of leather quiver
Open quiver showing cover and arrows inside
Close-up of open quiver and cover
Close-up of open quiver with arrows inside

Kibwece, Silas 1993. Mbeere Archery. Unpublished manuscript notes on Mbeere archery written by Silas Kibwece in May 1993 for Martin Walsh, Embu. [Answers to a list of questions asked about Mbeere archery and its technology (to fill in gaps in Walsh 1993).]

Nyaga, Alfred 1992. Mbeere Hunting, Trapping and Fishing. Unpublished manuscript notes on Mbeere hunting, trapping and fishing practices written by Alfred Nyaga in December 1992 for Martin Walsh, Embu.

Walsh, Martin 1993. Mbeere Archery and its Technology: A Preliminary Description and Analysis. Unpublished ms., draft, May 1993.

No comments:

Post a Comment