Wargaming the Exploration and Colonisation of Tropical Africa by European powers from 1850 until 1918.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


The first figures I bought from the Foundry Darkest Africa range were some generic tribal warriors which I equipped with basket shields to be allies of the Azande, who were the next figures I bought. These were the first 28mm figures I had ever painted, after a lifetime of plastic, and they look a bit ropey now.

In fact, the first figure I painted was this one to serve as a princess. She definitely needs a repaint. I might have a go to see if I can improve her this weekend. It might make a good "before and after" project.

I like the Azande as an army; they are the Uruk Hai of Darkest Africa! Their name means the people who possess much land, and refers to their history as conquering warriors.

The Azande were experts at ambushes. In the early period they used bows and then later muskets.

During all periods, however, they used their characteristic throwing knives the kpinga.

These Azande musketmen are a mixture of Foundry and the later ones Mark Copplestone did for his own Copplestone castings, some of these were painted more recently and are a bit better done than some of the earlier figures I did.

This is my Azande command group, at least they know what to do with a Belgian!

An Azande chief's hut

Classic basketwork shield and knives. The sickle bladed ones are for hand to hand combat rather than throwing. The caption on this picture refers to them as Niam-Niam (or Nyam-Nyam) both of which terms were used to describe them by 19th century Europeans; the word being of Dinka (Sudan) origin and meaning great eaters (they were reputed to be cannibals).

The Azande would hold up to four kpinga in their left hands concealed behind their shields. In 1925 Emil Torday wrote; "The first attack was made of arrows..then all of a sudden some objects glittering in the sun as if they were thuderbolts come whirling with a weird hum through the air.. it smites the warrior behind his defence with its cruel blades." Nasty!

The Azande shield was known as kube and was made of split rattan cane reinforced with tightly braided ropes around the rims. The characteristic patterns were so that warriors could identify each other in the dark. There is a good collection of them in the Pitt-Rivers museum in Oxford (see picture below).

They also have a good collection of Azande and Belgian colonial stuff in the military musem in Brussels. It's rather an old fashioned museum with everything in old wooden cases but it suits the material somehow. I'm over there later in the year so will try to take a picture or two but I remember it being very dark and flash photography is probably not allowed. I also recently saw a nice Azande shield in the National Museum in Copenhagen. They had quite an interesting exhibition on the colonial Congo when I was there in March.

I played a Darkest Africa game at Guildford against Mike's (of Black Hat Miniatures http://www.blackhat.co.uk/) Belgians but my Azande got quite comprehensively massacred by his White Men and gunboat mounted cannon. Jolly unsporting! Most of my units were destroyed or ran away before they even came into combat!

The Azande people still live in the southern Sudan (mostly), The Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As usual tribal groupings are not recognised by colonial boundaries; the cause of most problems in Africa. Here is a Zande (singular of Azande as well as the language) girl and her Basenji hunting dogs.


Oscar1986 said...

interesting post,I did not know any of that, loved it:)

Morisset said...


I was wondering if you could help me. I'm a professional photographer and I set out to photograph the aspect of Azande Wariors in which they had boy-wives. It's for an art exhibition in NYC coming up in the fall. Can you tell me if you know of a place where I can get a replica of the Azande shiled and spear? I really need this piece to be historically accurate, so the shiledand spear is of particular importance to me. Any leads you can give me would be REALLY helpful!!

GREAT post by the way. I'm learning so much about the Azande as I go along and it's FASCINATING!

legatus hedlius said...

You can get replica Azande shields here:


Don't know about spears; they probably wouldn't let you import them!

I'll be putting more stuff up about Aznde Weapons shortly.

legatus hedlius said...

That said here is a real one for sale!


Morisset said...

WOW! Thanks for the info! Now, is there any place I can rent the shield and spear? The budget for my shoot is almost non-existent. It's art! :-)

Unknown said...

If you want to learn more about African knives:

legatus hedlius said...

Great site. Thank you!

Kunteh said...

That is some beautiful woodwork...

I stumbled on your blog from google and am very intrigued. I made my way from Kenya back in '78.

There's another site that carries some amazing, authentic African woodwork, as well as some of the beautiful Kenyan and Nigerian trade beads...in case you're interested.


Sana said...

wow..i am Azande and i enjoyed reading this; it was interesting :-)

Unknown said...

If anyone knows of any Azande males or females living in the United States please put me in touch with them.
I am researching Azande early weapontry and tribal weapons for an upcoming project.

I can be reached at


AzandeNetworkers said...

I hope you got your answeres. if you stil need some more try googling the "Azande community of Portland Maine" you can then get a contact. You're welcome to visit my blog too for some information


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