The Hadendowa were one of the major clans of the Beja tribe, which lived in eastern Sudan. As something of a backwater little changed in the Sudan so the figures in this set would doubtless be appropriate for a very long period of time, but the obvious focus for such a set would be the last two decades of the 19th century, when the Mahdi raised the people in revolt against their Egyptian overlords and established an independent state which fought Egyptian, Abyssinian, British and Italian armies before being crushed in 1899, following the famous battle of Omdurman.
Camels are the obvious form of transport on land such as that on which the Hadendowa lived, but they are not the ideal beast from which to conduct warfare. Various accounts of the battles in the Sudan between 1880 and 1899 make no particular mention of camels used in battle by the Ansar army, so it seems likely that, apart from beasts of burden naturally, they were mainly used for patrols and reconnaissance. As such they would have been a most useful part of the native forces - effectively mounted infantry.
The Beja were known for the way they teased their hair into strands and used fat to make it stand out, forming a kind of 19th century perm which earned them the nickname 'Fuzzy-Wuzzies' from the British. Once the Ansar state was well established it seems they dropped this habit in favour of shaven heads and turbans or skull caps, as the Mahdiyah imposed some sort of uniformity on the Ansar. So while the figures in this set reflect well this classic Baja look it is more likely to be relevant for the earlier actions in the 1880s rather than those in the following decade. Clothing too suggests the earlier date as the traditional tribal pattern worn here seems to have been replaced by the jibbah in later years. However whether a few or even more of the Beja retained their traditional customs in the later years is open to debate. These figures are accurate as regards the traditional look, which is perfectly reasonable.
One of the mounted figures is nursing a spear but the other two have ring hands, into which the separate spears, sword or rifle can be inserted. The rifle does not make much sense on either of these figures, but the spears and sword, all of which are of authentic design (though many designs were used), are good choices for weapons. Mounted men were not often given rifles anyway, so this is not a problem. However the rifle supplied looks to be quite an ancient piece, which might well still be seen at this time, although there were many more modern rifles, particularly Remingtons, available to the Ansar.
Camels have a very different walk to horses, but both of these animals are well posed. Surprisingly they have no saddles as such - simply cloths and in one case a very narrow sort of saddle which we have not found any evidence for and think unlikely. However it does not seem impossible that some warriors rode camels without any substantive saddle, so this may well be authentic. What it does mean is the riders perch rather on the camel’s hump, and will require gluing to stay put, although they fit well.
Also included in the set is a single foot pose. This man has been given a separate arm, which fits well and makes for a great pose. He carries a sword and, like his mounted colleagues, a classic round shield with a pronounced central boss that was made of tough hide.
Given the role these men are likely to have played we thought the poses were very well done, with the footman being the best example. The camels too look natural and well produced. The quality of the mould is also very good, with almost no flash or mould line and no excess plastic. The folds in the simple clothing are nicely done and the faces are OK - this is not a subject for which 'detail' is really required. We wondered whether the hair was a bit too large, although that probably depended on individual taste, but one curiosity is the mounted men are really large compared to the man on foot. Clearly humans vary in height, and this man happens to be particularly short, but it is unusual for sets to portray such variances in height, unless he is meant to be a youth, which is possible.
The Hadendowa provided some of the fiercest warriors in the fight with the Egyptian and latterly European forces, and such men on foot have already been made and reviewed elsewhere. We generally prefer more than three mounted poses when reviewing cavalry sets, but these are not really cavalry, and the way such men were probably used makes the poses in this set cover the subject pretty well. They are accurate and nicely produced, so will do the job well in our view.