Mar 28, 2012

Weapons & Warriors: The Kpinga of the Zande Warrior

This is one of my most favorite throwing weapons in the entire world. It only serves one purpose, to kill or maim. The Kpinga was engineered to do it better than any other throwing weapon ever made. It is basically a perfectly crafted giant throwing knife. Unlike your standard throwing knife, the Kpinga actually has multiple blades at different angles so that once thrown, there was always at least one razor edge pointing at the target no matter what part of the spinning rotation it was in.

Many African tribes used this weapon in battle, and it had many names, but the Azande people called it the Kpinga. Another name it is known as is Hunga Munga, which is on of its more popular aliases. I can imagine that name may be as descriptive as any name as to what inspired the shape and design of at least one of the blades. Just look at the picture and you’ll know what I mean. It’s okay; I’ll give you a moment to pull your mind out of the gutter. Have your eyes shrunk back to their normal size yet? Good, let’s move on.

The Kpinga weighs about 3.5 pounds and is nearly two feet long. That is a considerable size and weight for a throwing weapon. That much mass would pull on the blade that is piercing the target. This could cause even more damage than the blades original penetration. The blade would just go on ripping tendons and muscles as the heavy weapon flops around and twists the blade while the injured man falls or continues charging into battle.

The size of this weapon was a huge plus on the battlefield, because even if it was thrown into a shield, it was long enough that it could roll over the edge and still strike the target. Every inch of the weapon was sharpened except the handle. The blade just above the handle was placed specifically so that even if the larger blades are facing away then the target will still be cut or stabbed by the smaller handle blade. However, with the size of this weapon I am pretty sure that even getting struck directly by the handle would cause serious harm to a person.

A typical Zande warrior often carried three or four of the Kpinga under his huge oval shield. Once he was in range and out of spears, he could easily access them and throw them. This weapon was made like an axe and because of its handle it was also a very effective weapon in melee situations.

Azande men cherished these weapons and they were only ever made for those who had become real warriors by the Avongara clan. They used something called “Court Metal” which made the weapon very special.

These warriors stood out on the battlefield because of the Kpinga. The rest of the army, made up of farmers and civilians, could easily identify the professional soldiers and follow their lead. These steel blades were also offered as wedding presents from warriors to his wife’s family.

The Zande Warriors were some of the most fearsome and terrifying African warriors ever, and had some really ingenious methods for war and executions.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. That is perfect and timely! I have a character I am looking for a weapon of choice for, and THIS, with the character's ethnicity and region, is perfect! So, thank you!

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad to help.

    2. That's a good question. I would assume in some countries it would be illegal to own or purchase. The USA has several laws banning throwing knives so I would double check that before trying to purchase one anywhere. I've looked around a little bit myself and I didn't really find a source that I trusted enough to sell one of good quality. I've considered making one for myself.

    3. I unfortunately could never find the time period where this weapon was first used. It's usually made with steel so my guess would be it's been in use since the 1800's. Azande culture still exists in areas around the Congo and Sudan so these may still be designed today. There is recorded history of the Azande all the way back to the 1600's, and if the Kpinga was used that far back it could have been made using other materials, but I've never heard of anything but metal versions.

    4. I am the co-founder of the RainShine Foundation, a nonprofit that runs and builds schools in DR Congo. I just returned from a trip there with a few antique Kapingas. Since they came with antiquities paperwork they were allowed into California no problem. We are selling them as a fundraiser for the school. Message me if you want details about the throwing knives or the Azande people. I got pics with the chiefs in traditional garb brandishing the weapons. Very cool experience. Cheers, Rob