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"color patches on Dervish tunics" Topic

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566 hits since 21 Feb 2017
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Comments or corrections?

Retiarius921 Feb 2017 4:36 a.m. PST

does anyone know what the specific colors of these patches represented, if they did at all?

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2017 5:18 a.m. PST

The colors had no significance, but the patched jibba indicated poverty and humility, as well as service to Muhammed Ahmed.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2017 6:52 a.m. PST

I learned late they should be symmetrically located and colored – not random. Ex., both shoulder arches should be red.

Though maybe that is wrong now?

alan lockhart Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2017 7:10 a.m. PST

I believe both the above to be correct.

If you have any interest in the Sudan, get yourself the Mahdist Wars Source Books from TVAG: the go-to source for informarion on that period. Also Go Strong into the Desert by Mike Snook has a good guide to uniforms of both sides.

Son of MOOG21 Feb 2017 7:39 a.m. PST

Under the Mahdi, the patched jibba represented poverty and as such the patches were completely random in nature and not necessarily of a colorful nature. Certain tribes, such as the riverine arabs of the Mettemeh and Berber localities wore what the British described as the " Mahdi uniform" which was a sleevless white/off-white tunic with colored piping around the neck and arm hole areas and a single colored patch on the left breast. It is thought that the color of the patch denoted the tribe the wearer belonged to.

Later on, under the Khalifa, the jibba became a standard uniform per-se and many wearers went "all-out" in their "decoration". I have also read that certain units all wore jibbas that were decorated the same way but this is only anecdotal information at best.

As an aside, the turbans of the Khalifas' body guard "regiment" were red and a green turban signified the wearer had made the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hope this helps.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2017 10:22 a.m. PST

Depends on how subtle you want to be. There's a difference between wearing patched clothes early on because you're poor, and wearing them later to show you're on the side of poverty and humility. See the tailored Mao jackets worn by powerful Communists of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution--or the difference in the United States between actual worn and patched jeans and the stuff bought by rich gits who pay someone to "distress" their "denim." Not hard to tell apart.

Figure early Mahdists with cheap dyes and patches at wear points. Wealthy late Mahdists could afford bright colors and large symmetrical patches that had nothing to do with actual wear. It's a lot more fun to show how poor and humble you are than it is to actually BE poor and humble.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Feb 2017 11:28 a.m. PST


Well, said, Sir!

Long ago, I recall reading a source that claimed that the "First Generation" Ansar, those actually serving under Mohammad Ahmed while alive, specifically and exclusively used BLACK patches. The message being that they were so poor, so humble, so "salt of the earth," they couldn't even patch their white Jibbas with white cloth, and nothing is as far from white as black.

It's a lovely and at least plausible idea, but for the life of me, I've never been able to recall or rediscover where I (think!) this appeared.

If anyone can cite a source, anything that might support the notion, or definitively de-bunk it, please share it as the information would be welcome to far many more than just


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2017 1:37 p.m. PST

I have read that the patches were supposed to be black but, in practice, were not. That was years ago and I don't recall the source.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 10:12 a.m. PST

IF the early patches were "supposed to be" black, but changed later, that would be perfectly plausible given the increasing Mahdist practice of adopting more and more finery as their cause entered its downward trajectory.

After Mohammad Ahmed passed, his original movement seemed to become generally more worldly than he may have intended.


coopman Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 4:14 p.m. PST

I painted the patches on my minis red, light blue, yellow & black. And I ain't changing them.

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