Having collected and prepared a piece of wood from an akaale bush, Akwee continues the process of constructing a spear (akwara). He uncovers the wood from the rocks that had been place upon it the day before, cuts an appropriate length and removes the bark. Having done this, he begins slowly carving the wood into a spear shaft, bending it intermittently to make it straight and measuring the ends against the two pieces of metal he has selected to serve as the spear head and base. When he has finished carving the wood, he hammers the metal into place.
Rights ownerSamuel Frederick Derbyshire
ParticipantsAkwee Ekomolo Akelerio
Techniques of productionBent, Carved
Social group settingCraftsperson at work alone
TemporalityThe construction of spears has long been an integral component of daily life in Turkana, and a skill that most adult men possess. In the deeper past, spears would have been constructed on a far more regular basis, up until the 1960s-70s most men would carry two spears on their person when moving about the landscape. In more recent years, the construction of spears has become less common in line with their declining ubiquity in everyday mundane activities (and the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons). Nevertheless, they remain integral to asapan, and a variety of other important rituals and ceremonies. The metal spear components utilised on this occasion were purchased from Lodwar and probably initially came from Samburu communities in Maralal. Far from reflecting any recent transformation in the production of spears in Turkana, this articulates a long history of trade and exchange with external, metal producing communities. Throughout history, Turkana communities have never produced metal locally, relying instead on a variety of neighbouring populations for this commodity. Moreover, the purchase of spear heads and bases from Lodwar has long been a common activity, most probably dating back to Lodwar’s emergence as a regional administrative centre during the early colonial era. Spearhead covers are extremely uncommon in the present era, although many possess the ability to make them.
Date of creation2020-05-30