Sumatran 'Lawi Ayam' Kerambit
Northern Sumatra, Batak or Minangkabau – 19th century
Materials: Steel, Silver, Horn (Bubbalis Arnee), Wood
The word ‘ayam lawi‘ is Malay for ‘cock- or chicken-claw’ and is a term known for a very interesting Sumatran weapon, better known as ‘karambit‘ or ‘korambi‘. It was most likely derived from the Arabian ‘jambiya‘ with its distinghuised curve. The ‘ayam lawi‘ has a strong, crescent-shaped blade, being single or double edged. The weapon is to be held in hand with the index finger through the hilt, striking upwards. These knives are often carried within their scabbard, shoved into a sarong.
Made of buffalo horn and carved as an abstract beak from which a ring-shaped end arises. The hole in the hilt was meant to put the index finger through to function as a fast and lethal extension of the hand, like a sharp claw. The hilt has no guard and runs down smoothly towards the blade. The end of the hilt shows a small oval ridge which is decorated with floral carvings at its rim.
The blade is forged from two layers of steel and has an oval shaped mid section. A medial ridge emerges from the first quarter of the blade which ends up in the tip. The blade starts with a flat spine ending in a double cutting edge down the entire blade.
Made of three pieces of wood, combined to a fine curved scabbard with typical Batak or Minangkabau inspired carvings. The scabbard has two suspension rings of white metal which are held in place by fine braided ratan bands.
Condition: Excellent, minor ware and no repairs.
Provenance: French private collection
Blade length: 9.3cm
Blade spine thickness: 2.5mm
Total length: 17cm
Sources: A. van Zonnevelds ‘Traditional weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago‘
Comparable examples: The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, acc.nr. 36.25.823a, b
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