- Label Text
- In 1881 Mohammed Ahmed Ibn el-Sayyid Abdullah (1844-1885) declared himself al-Mahdi, the "Proclaimed One," successor to the prophet Mohammad. A scholar and an ascetic, the Mahdi criticized the corruption of both local religious leaders and the intrusive Egyptian colonial officials who governed the Sudan. Armor for the Mahdi's soldiers included a quilted tunic and, at time, chain mail. The front and back slits in the mail, which is worn over a quilted tunic, are designed for riding astride. Although mail is often described as attire for ceremonial occasions, not battle, this piece was captured at the Battle of Atbara in April 1898. The city of Omdurman was a major center for production, and smiths continued to make ceremonial mail until at least the 1940s.
- While such mail is often described as being worn on ceremonial occaisions, not in battle, the provenance of this piece suggests otherwise as it was captured at the Battle of Atbara in April 1898. Similar objects were taken from the armory at Omdurman, not from an individual. Contemporary accounts of the war show that the British were fascinated by Mahdist troops having mail, which the British associated with the crusades, although without noting the participation of Nubian Christians in the crusades. Armor specialists describe rivet shapes as distinguishing medieval western from oriental manufacture, and the importance of Egypt as a clearing house for armor. This does not seem to apply to the hammered links of this mail and there were several manufacturing sites within Sudan. For example Omdurman is described as a major center for production and smiths there continued to make ceremonial mail until at least the 1940s.
- Shirt of linked circular mail, cut hight in front and back.
- Captured at the battle of Atbara in 1898 by Captain Philip Peters, 10th Lincolnshire Foot
- Exhibition History
- TxtStyles: Fashioning Identity, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 11-December 7, 2008
- Data Source
- National Museum of African Art
- Undetermined artist
- Late 19th century
- Credit Line
- Museum purchase
- H x W: 102 x 105 cm (40 3/16 x 41 5/16 in.)
- Textile and Fiber Arts