Afogai, the famous Shaka Zulu spear which plays dual role in Peru

Stephen Nartey October 28, 2022
Sketch of King Shaka (1781 - 1828) from 1824. Attributed to James King, it appeared in Nathanial Isaacs’ "Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa", published in 1836. Image via Wiki/Public domain

The technique of using the afogai or assogai by the enslaved Africans in Peru, the famous weapon invented by the Zulu King Shaka, seems to be fading away in the culture in the South American region. In Peru, there are only three families who made it an obligation to groom their young males in the tradition of using afogai in the 20th century. This is because the weapon commands its own military style of combat.

The enslaved in Peru preserved 24 basic spear techniques from the Zulu kingdom and that is what they have handed over to their descendants, according to Medium. Though these skills were not used in any communal strife, they became a good defensive shield against any attacks launched at them while going about their daily activity. The afogai can either be used for farming activities and battles when the need arises. 

The people perceive it as more than a farming implement or warring weapon, but a link between the enslaved Africans’ past and their new environment in Peru. It embodies the traditions, customs and African ancestry of the enslaved people in Peru. 

Traditionally, the afogai is a weapon used for battle. It was meant to be a short-throwing spear meant to incapacitate one’s enemy. Descriptively, it has a spearhead which is wrapped under a short stick. But, when it mattered most and there were no wars to fight, the enslaved people turned it into a farm tool which they used to dig holes for planting. On the farmlands, it is used a traditional plough to test the rigidity of the land. 

The Quijano youth made it their chief farm implement because of the civil strife they sometimes had with neighboring communities of the land. After intensive farming activity during the day, the afogai returns to its customary role of being a weapon. 

The absence of war however doesn’t mean it is restricted to the background. In traditional games such as Cocobale and Calinda, the inhabitants exhibit their techniques with the short spear. 

The afogai like a stick can be used to deflect an adversary’s weapon in battle while launching an attack. But in an actual duel, the iron-tipped point allowed for equally deadly strikes with the non-dominant hand. The weapon can also be used single-handedly while hiding a knife beneath it to cause a deadly blow to an enemy during a battle.

Oral history has it that it was one of the inventions of Shaka Zulu, the powerful Zulu king in the 19th century. When he introduced it into his military regiment, he taught them the combat style that came with it to make them appear invincible in battle, according to Ertribal.

This style of fighting required more agility and aggressiveness to be able to outsmart the adversary. The Zulu kingdom relied on this war strategy to overpower many of its neighboring tribes and territories.

It is considered taboo for anyone of Zulu blood to throw his afogai or iklwa even on the verge of death. A Zulu warrior is expected to desert any war without this traditional spear. It is the heart and soul of the Zulu Kingdom.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 28, 2022


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