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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hand carved catapults from West Africa, made by tribes such as: the Mossi, Lobi, Dogon, Senufo and Baule. These frames usualy of anthromorphic, geometric, or talismatic form were used to scare pests away from crops or to hunt small birds, frogs or lizards. Bicycle tube was the main source of bands, attached by the african wrap method. African catapults had little appeal to tribal art collectors before Potomo Waka was published [ Scanzi / Ferrari 1987 ]. Itinerant Hausa and Dioula traders did not even bother to bring them to market. However, Scanzi stressed that wooden catapults pre-dated the colonial era, this gave them the status of authentic African art thus increasing their desirability and value. Many of the talismanic forks had faces on the fronts and backs to protect the user.
 

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Cool collection Mr. bird. I know absolutely nothing about these tribal slingshots. They are so interesting!
 
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Nice collection Mr B.

Not saying that this isn't the case - but is there actual evidence of these style of slingshots actually being used?

I believe there is evidence of tribes using large slingshots using animal gut well before colonial contact. Though there is a possibility that the Western interest in these may actually have spawned their creation - basically someone sees something (not necessarily slingshot but similar) and says - I'll take more of these - which ignites their production meet the demand (without actually ever being an actual implement). Obviously throughout Africa things like tribal masks create an industry of manufacture to supply a market for Authentic Items - and in fact China produces many (which are sold through the continent). I would even go as far as all these primitive style frames from all the cultures may simply be misinterpreted. As in some sort of fertility idol with speed legs which looks slingshot-like.

My general 'surprise ' is their ornateness which suggests that these were highly regarded if not even sacred - or simply to sell to westerners. Usually there is some decoration on what would be considered everyday items - but not to the level of these... Just doesn't ring true for some reason, esp. compared to highly regarded items, knives, bows, fighting sticks etc.

The local tribal made slingshots usually follow the African Wrap style (which you can occasionally buy from the odd traffic light). Which makes sense as a utilitarian design - no frills etc. Though during the Apartheid years ownership of this type of implement would have been questionable, which may have resulted in a low-risk item that could be thrown away at a moments notice. Growing yup I did see quite a few, for lack of better word 'ethnic' slingshots. Some had quick-detachable gypsy tabs to allow for shortening of bands (usually car tube) - and some quite aesthetically pleasing - but never carved.
 

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Animal gut slingshots sound interesting.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi Matt, I admit I am not surprised by your response to this post as it is an expansion of something we touched on in an earlier post; " African Wrap". You ask if there is any actual evidence of these slingshots being used as I claim, you then go on to make what appear to be speculations of your own about misinterpretation and fertility idols etc. Speculation is fine in as much as it encourages debate and interest however, the danger of speculation is it can get adopted as fact. Is there any actual evidence for your misinterpretation/ fertility idol theories ? I do not tend to speculate but as I have never been to Africa I can not claim any first hand evidence of these slingshots being used but I have seen various compelling and concurring accounts by what I consider reliable sources of these forks being used for the purposes claimed, namely crop protection and small scale hunting. I would not print anything if I did not believe it to be true nor would I print anything without some substantiating evidence. Why would you be surprised by the ornateness of these forks or the high regard in which they might be held? All of them could be made from a forked stick by anyone with the ability to beg, steal or borrow a pocket knife and a few sticking plasters. Look at this Forum everyone on it holds their slingshots in high regard and most of them are produced with if not exactly ornateness certainly with exquisite workmanship. Nor do I understand your reference to Apartheid [something I know nothing about ] but my understanding is it was based in South Africa my post, as the title indicates, concerns West Africa. I do not have a copy of Potomo Waka it is a large coffee table book and way to expensive for me. I do have a copy of 'African Art In Transit', by Steiner, published by Cambridge University Press which explains that after Potomo Waka more existing slingshots were brought to market and more were produced to accommodate demand. However this demand, supply and commoditization does not in any way invalidate the original purpose for which these slingshots were made.
 

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Yeah - I did some research after my post and found a few articles that specifically refers to these frames.

There are a few websites that sell these frames sort of give a brief overview. One even mentions that fathers may get them commissioned for their sons - so may have carried enough value to be something special.

However I found funnily enough African Art in Transit - specifically discussing these frames as well as the Italian art dealer who was collecting them for resale in Europe in the late 80's. He does mention that in some cases broken statues would have been repurposed. Its possible that some of thee repurposed frames may have been used as a blueprint to supply the EU art trade. Sort of chicken and egg idea. We may never know which came first. The worrying thing in these of Steiner is that it allows for the possible concept that the Italian art dealer in question may have possibly elaborated, or even fabricated the history to help sell these at a higher value (its likely the art community would use his initial story as well). But this is my own conjecture. If you've seen the movie Blood Diamond ' T.I.A.' Its a different world... you can't apply western understanding to Africa.

I have yet to find any actual images etc. of them actually being used. You'd think if they were high status there would be more about them.

The one other issue is availability to elastics - obviously effective rubber was only available after Goodyear vulcanised the stuff - what also bothers me slightly is how accessible it would have been out in essentially the colonies.

And yes - I am based in South Africa - but have travelled to a few countries on the continent. The apartheid reference was simply that slingshots locally made during that era may have been made with disposability in mind - so may simply not have had much work done to them other than making them functional, which may affect my interpretation. When it comes to decorations on objects what I do know is based on the local African tribes (and there are a few).

All I'm saying is there seems to be some questionable aspects to them - though they may well be what they are.

Anyway - I'm not trying to cause friction - just proposing a question.
 

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Yeah - I did some research after my post and found a few articles that specifically refers to these frames.

There are a few websites that sell these frames sort of give a brief overview. One even mentions that fathers may get them commissioned for their sons - so may have carried enough value to be something special.

However I found funnily enough African Art in Transit - specifically discussing these frames as well as the Italian art dealer who was collecting them for resale in Europe in the late 80's. He does mention that in some cases broken statues would have been repurposed. Its possible that some of thee repurposed frames may have been used as a blueprint to supply the EU art trade. Sort of chicken and egg idea. We may never know which came first. The worrying thing in these of Steiner is that it allows for the possible concept that the Italian art dealer in question may have possibly elaborated, or even fabricated the history to help sell these at a higher value (its likely the art community would use his initial story as well). But this is my own conjecture. If you've seen the movie Blood Diamond ' T.I.A.' Its a different world... you can't apply western understanding to Africa.

I have yet to find any actual images etc. of them actually being used. You'd think if they were high status there would be more about them.

The one other issue is availability to elastics - obviously effective rubber was only available after Goodyear vulcanised the stuff - what also bothers me slightly is how accessible it would have been out in essentially the colonies.

And yes - I am based in South Africa - but have travelled to a few countries on the continent. The apartheid reference was simply that slingshots locally made during that era may have been made with disposability in mind - so may simply not have had much work done to them other than making them functional, which may affect my interpretation. When it comes to decorations on objects what I do know is based on the local African tribes (and there are a few).

All I'm saying is there seems to be some questionable aspects to them - though they may well be what they are.

Anyway - I'm not trying to cause friction - just proposing a question.
try doing a reverse image search on Google and see what comes up .
To me they look like stuff made for the tourist trade . In the usa I have seen ones that are carved to look like native American art but are just things made to sell to tourists in malls basically .
Never used by real native American tribes .
 

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Well they were definitely made for the tourist and western art trade. They are interesting artifacts, nicely made and are authentically handmade antique African slingshots.

My question is if the historic background story is accurate.

If all the facts are based on a single art dealer who flooded the market with them in the late 80s. It could be akin to a used car salesmans clever plot to empty his yard at the highest rate possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
There is no friction Matt, you are perfectly entitled to believe your own theories but unless you produce any evidence I wont be sharing them. So what have we got, speculation theories based on what " does not ring true" and a suggested theory influenced by items sold on a different continent. Alternately we have a generally accepted consensus of opinion all agreeing that these forks were originally used to protect crops and shoot small game ( why wouldn't they be ). Even Steiner in his exhaustive and authoritative study feels no need to dispute their original purpose, he does not refute it because there is no evidence or reason to doubt it. So no Matt I do not believe they were originally made for the tourist trade, at least not before things changed in the late 1980s.
 
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