Zande bow

Zande bow

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] ?Northern Bahr el Ghazal ?Western Bahr el Ghazal ?Warab ?El Buheyrat ?Western Equatoria
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1917
Wood Plant Bamboo Plant? , Animal Hair , Animal Hide Skin , Sinew Plant Fibre , Copper Metal , Brass Metal , Tin Metal
Carved , Stained , Twisted Strung Tied , Perforated Hollowed , Forged (Metal) Bent , Bound Stitched
Bow L - 1122, diam at centre = 20.5 x 19, at ends = 8.5 x 8; string diam = 2.5; slit drum L = 95.5, W = 30.4, th = 23.7; binding strips W = 4 -5, hair tassel L = 250, W = 36.5, th = 22 mm [RTS 28/9/2005].
308.0 g
Other Owners:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, probably collected in the period immediately before World War I (1909-1914) [RTS 1/6/2004].
Field Collector:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson
PRM Source:
Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson
Donated October 1917
Collected Date:
By 1917
Bow carved from a single piece of wood with a segmented body, slightly oval in section, and tapering to either end; the ends have been shaved to form slightly inset pegs, probably to help keep the bow string in position. The surface has been stained an orangey brown colour (Pantone 730C). The bow has been strung with a length of twisted, grayish brown sinew cord (Pantone 7531C), pulling the ends of the shaft inwards to form a shallow curve. This has been tied around the lower end of the shaft, wound several times around the body, and then extended up to fit over the peg end at the top of the shaft, using a small double loop. The bow string has snapped at the centre and the broken ends are fraying. The bow shaft has been decorated with 9 sections of metal binding, made from thin strips of metal wound around the shaft and the ends hammered into the wood. From the top of the bow, these are made from strips of tin (Pantone 877C), brass (Pantone 871C) and copper (Pantone 876C); brass, copper and brass; and then copper, tin and brass; the arrangement is therefore very symmetrical. The central part of the bow has been left plain, to provide a comfortable hand grip, and the groups, while arranged at regular intervals, become closer together as they approach the ends of the bow. The bow has also been fitted with a signalling device, consisting of a hollow slit drum, carved from a single piece of yellow wood (Pantone 7509C). This has a lozenge-shaped plan view, with flat upper surface and convex sides and back; a narrow slit has been cut along the length of the object, just below the top. The back has been perforated with 2 pairs of holes. These allow the drum to be tied onto the bow shaft, which has been done with two lengths of twisted brown plant fibre string (Pantone 728C). Finally, the shaft has been fitted with a decorative tassel. This consists of a strip of animal skin with long dark brown hair still present on the outer surface (Pantone Black 4C), mixed with some lighter colours. The upper end has been folded over itself, and stitched to the underside of a thick piece of yellow hide, with the hair largely removed, using narrow yellow grass strips (Pantone 7508C for both). The thicker hide piece has one rounded end, pierced with a large hole that has been fitted over the bow shaft, and then a triangular body that tapers to the other end. This forms a thick tab, that stands out at an angle from the bow shaft, with the hair lengths then hanging down from its end. The bow is complete, and has a weight of 308 grams. The bow shaft is 1122 mm long, with a maximum diameter at the centre of 20.5 by 19 mm, and at the ends of 8.5 by 8 mm; the bow string has a diameter of 2.5 mm; the slit drum is 95.5 mm long, 30.4 mm wide and 23.7 mm thick; the metal binding strips are 4-5 mm wide, and the hair tassel is 250 mm long, 36.5 mm wide and 22 mm thick.

Collected by Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, probably in the period between 1909 and 1914, from the Bahr el Ghazal area.

For a similar wooden slit drum attached to a Zande bow, see 1934.8.118; Powell-Cotton recorded the Zande name for that bow as bato, and tells us that the slit drum was used for signalling; it emits a sharp sound when the string is released. Nearly a decade earlier, Larken had recorded the local term for bow as mboto, and stated that bows and arrows were not in general use amongst the Zande, while those he did see were all "short and not very stiff, none exceeding three feet in length" (P.M. Larken, 1926, "An Account of the Zande", Sudan Notes and Records IX no. 1, p 41).

Rachael Sparks 28/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [VI, p. 54] - 1917 [pencil insert] 25 [end insert] MAJOR R.G. GAYER-ANDERSON , R.A.M.C. The Lodge, Old Marston, Oxon [pencil insert] 7 [end insert] - Niam Niam bow with small wooden gong attached which emits a sharp sound when the string is released, Bahr-el Gazal.
Additional Accession Book Entry
[page opposite 54] - A gift to the Pitt Rivers Museum in memory of Major R.G. Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, his twin brother Colonel J.G. Gayer-Anderson, C.M.G., D.S.O.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes or object (weapons) catalogue cards [RTS 10/2/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Sudan, Bahr el Ghazal. ZANDE tribe. Bow with wooden gong. d.d. R.G. Gayer-Anderson 1917.25.7 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 28/9/2005].

Written on object - NIAM NIAM bow with sounding gong. BAHR-EL-GAZAL. d.d. Major Gayer-Anderson 1917 [RTS 28/9/2005].

Related Documents File - Two letters dated 30/03/1917 and 13/04/1917 from the donor to Henry Balfour regarding the donation of the collection to the museum [EB 12/11/2001]. These indicate that the material was collected by Robert Gayer-Anderson himself, chiefly from the areas of Nuba, Kordofan and Bahr el Ghazal during 5 years he spent in the Sudan, and that they were given to the museum as an unconditional gift [RTS 5/12/2003]. The note in the accession book calling this gift 'in memory of' R.G. Gayer-Anderson is therefore somewhat enigmatic, as both Robert and his twin brother (Thomas G., not J.G.) were alive at the time of the transfer [RTS 5/12/2003].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
Help | About | Bibliography