Soldiers of Bornu, Northern Nigeria, 1850s

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This record was last updated on 10 Feb 2017

Image Reference

Harper's Weekly (Sept. 12, 1857), p. 580; Henry [Heinrich] Barth, Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa . . . . in the year 1849-1855 (Philadelphia, 1859), p. 251.

In Barth's book this illustration is captioned, Kanembu Chief with Horse. Kanembu, a people from a region northeast of Lake Chad, present-day Nigeria. The chief is in full regalia and surrounded by foot soldiers with spears and shields; they were on a slaving expedition into the Marghi country. "The spearmen, carrying light but strong fogo wood shields, formed the backbone of he mid-nineteenth century Bornu army. Around their heads they wear bolts of the local cloth currency, gubka, which may also have served as a form of helmet" (Christopher Spring, African Arms and Armour [British Museum Press, 1993], p. 44). The Harper's illustration accompanies an article on the first American edition of Barth's Travels and Discoveries;