Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/73

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65
PERSONAL DECORATION—WEAPONS.

them on the persons of their wives and daughters. They delight, however, in an amazing quantity of thin leathern "riems" (forming also part of their dress), which they wind around their loins in a negligent and graceful manner. These "riems"—which are often many hundred feet in length—serve as a receptacle for their knobsticks or kieries, their arrows, &c., but become, at the same time, a refuge for the most obnoxious insects.

The women, when they can afford it, wear a profusion of iron and copper rings—those of gold or brass are held in little estimation—round their waists and ankles.

The weapons of the Damaras are the assegai, the kierie, and the bow and arrow; they have also a few guns.

The head of the assegai consists of iron, and is usually kept well polished; being, moreover, of a soft texture, it is easily sharpened, or repaired, if out of order. The shaft, though, at times, also made of iron, is commonly of wood, the end being usually ornamented with a bushy ox-tail. On account of its great breadth, the assegai is not well adapted for stabbing, and its weight is such that it can not be thrown to any considerable distance. This weapon, in short, is chiefly used instead of a knife, and, though rather an awkward substitute, it answers the purpose tolerably well.

The kierie is a favorite weapon with the Damaras. They handle it with much adroitness, and kill birds and small quadrupeds with surprising dexterity. Most savage tribes in Southern Africa use this instrument with great advantage and effect. Thus, in speaking of the Matabili, Harris says, "They rarely miss a partridge or a Guinea-fowl on the wing." In an experienced hand, the kierie becomes a most dangerous and effective weapon, as a single well-directed blow is sufficient to lay low the strongest man.

The bow and arrow, on the other hand, though a constant companion, is not, with the Damaras, as effective as it ought to be. They never attain perfection in archery. At ten or