Apr 5, 2007
Apr 5, 2007

Ceremonial Axe (gano)

Ceremonial Axe (gano)

1900s, by 1929

Iron, wood, and metal

Overall: 15.8 cm (6 1/4 in.)

Gift of the African Art Sponsors of Karamu House 1929.364


Did you know?

This ceremonial axe has a half-moon piece of metal nailed to it, marked "EKB Depose." It is part of the mechanism for a pocket watch made by Edward Kummer of Bettlach, whose Swiss factories marked watches with his initials between 1888 and 1932.


This ceremonial axe (gano) showcases its maker’s skill in using different materials. The crescent-shaped blade was likely locally forged; braided wires and a Swiss pocket watch fragment on the handle were imported. Like the headrest nearby, gano were gendered female; a small headrest is carved at top. Too fine for battle, a man may have held it as a status or ancestral symbol during rituals or dancing. Though made for centuries, religious use of knives and axes waned due to early 20th-century Christianity and government laws. Rising independence-era Zimbabwean nationalism (1960s–70s) revived tradition-based religion and associated objects like the gano.

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