Wooden Spear with Snakeskin
Nairn Museum

This Arab spear is known to have belonged to the Baggara or Chadian Arabs. It has a pointed leaf-shaped metal blade and a wooden shaft.  Snakeskin is wrapped around it at both ends of the shaft.   

It is one of several unusual objects in Nairn Museum’s ethnographic collection. Museums often talk about the ‘provenance’ of objects. This means the story of their owners and their history up until they came to be in the collection. The lack of this history or provenance for this object is quite revealing.  

During the height of the British empire, some wealthy Victorian gentlemen collectors travelled to colonies, often returning with weapons like this as well as other artworks and cultural artefacts.   

This spear is believed to have been collected by a resident of Nairn, most likely for his own private collection. The snakeskin featured on this spear would have particularly appealed to those seeking a sense of “exoticism”.   

More recent reinterpretation of this history now calls into question the lack of cultural sensitivity, especially since many important cultural artefacts were taken without regard for their original context or purpose. 

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Date: 1800s
Materials : Metal, Wood, Snakeskin
Size : 170cm x 11.5cm

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