Measures: 40 x 21` x 18cm
At low concentrations near the ground surface, iron-bearing minerals, or iron ores can be found and have been used all over Africa. Recent research has shown that iron has been made in Africa for as long as it has in Europe.
EXTRACT from: Earth and Fire: Iron Technology and the Blacksmith
Iron is obtained from its ore by smelting, that is heating the ore in small lumps in a furnace, using charcoal as fuel, until is almost melts (about 1200ºC). It must then be reheated in a forge and hammered hot into a recognisable lump of metal by blacksmiths, from which a huge variety of tools and others objects can be made.
At about the beginning of the first millennium AD there began a great easterly and southerly expansion of Bantu-speaking peoples living in the woodlands to the north of the equatorial rain forest. These migrating peoples brought with them blacksmiths whose knowledge of iron technology must have had an immense impact on societies whose agricultural implements and weapons of war had previously been made of stone and wood. From the very early days of iron working in sub-Saharan Africa, blacksmiths may well have formed themselves into guilds in order to maintain a monopoly on the specialist skills which were their livelihood and source of power.
The itinerant smith could set up his forge and, provided a supply of charcoal (only a few species of tree were suitable) and of smelted iron was available, could begin work within a few hours. He would use an anvil of stone, hammers of stone and iron, tongs which might be no more than a split stick or a piece of bent iron and, of course, bellows. These might simply consist of a pair of animal skin bags, or in a more complex form, two or four solid chambers covered with a loose diaphragm of skin, each being pierced at the centre with a long stick which the smith’s assistant(s) would pump to produce the necessary blast. In both cases the air would be conducted to the fire by means of coarse clay tubes, tuyeres. With the aid of these relatively simple tools the African blacksmith mastered all the techniques of his trade. A detailed and informative description of an African smith at work is given by Felix (1991) in the introduction to his study of throwing knives.
As soon as European goods and materials became available in Africa, particularly after the beginning of the colonial period in the late nineteenth century, the African smith began to use imported iron in his work, though with the reservations noted above. During the twentieth century the increasing availability of scrap metal, particularly in the form of junked automobiles, has also been skilfully utilised.
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Sidewalk Tribal Gallery
19-21 Castray Esplanade,
Battery Point 7004
Hobart Tasmania Australia
t: 613 6224 0331
ABN 99 900 255 141
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