Old Large Bird Shaped Ceremonial Knife – Musele / Onzil – Gabon


Large throwing knife, called Musele or Onzil, with brass blade in the form of a bird’s head with a triangular perforation; with a wooden handle with twisted brass wire. With associated brass sheath. Max cm. 47,5 high (18.7″); max cm. 35,2 width (12.8″); grams 964 (34.0 oz.).

Mistakenly these knives are called Throwing Knives, although they were never meant to be used as a weapon. They are mostly ceremonial and also used in certain religious processions.

The bird-shaped blade represents the African Hornbill (Calao) a creature much admired in Africa for its persistence and intelligence.

The Musele knife formed an integral part of the dance costumes worn by members of the Mungala, a male secret society. Among the Kota, spears, knives and swords were considered to be emblems of the owner’s status.

Bird head knives symbolically represented weapons that were metaphysically aimed at hurting anyone who acted antisocially against the village community by practicing witchcraft or sorcery.

The Bakota (or Kota) are a Bantu ethnic group from the northeastern region of Gabon and Congo. The northern Kota, also called the Kota-Kota or the true Kota, number 28,000. In general, the Kota are separated into two groups, the northern and southern Kota, as a result of migration.

The true meaning of Bakota is unclear, however it may be derived from the word kota, which means to bind/to attach/to link, hereby suggesting they view themselves as a united people bound by a common fate.


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Additional information

Weight2100 g