Turkana Ararait Wrist Knife

Turkana Ararait wrist knife

Code:  AC9

An interesting old and used circular wrist knife, or “Ararait”, of the Turkana tribe in Kenya (see also my Turkana Finger Knives). The knife is made out of rectangular piece of sheet metal iron, then hammered and bent into a disk shape with flat upper and lower surfaces.  The outer edge is curved and sharpened.  Although the ends nearly touch at the outer tips, they have been cut at an angle so that they slope in and away from each other towards the center of the knife.  The center has an oval hole to accommodate the wrist.  A leather strip guards the wrist from the interior of the blade.  Another strip wraps the outer edge in day-to-day wearing, and it is removed for battle.

Turkana man wearing Ararait wrist knife

The British banned the making and wearing of these objects during colonial rule as they were considered lethal in close-combat fights.  Nevertheless, the Turkana are a war-like tribe that continues to wear and use this weapon. 

Warfare is traditionally an essential part of Turkana life and the principal occupation of young men. Weapons are considered a man’s proud possessions and the practical tool for increasing herds by raiding and for expanding their territory. The Turkana believe all livestock on Earth belongs to them and that they have a natural right to take it from neighboring tribes whenever they choose.

See:  The Turkana

Turkana man wearing Ararait wrist knife, illustration, 1888

            Tukana Warrior, 1888


-   Weapons and Conflicts

-   Cultural Safari

Recommended Reading: See 1979.20.136, from the Larim, or W. Fischer and M. Zirngibl, 1978, African Weapons, at. 57, from the Turkana.