The Taaishi are a subdivision of the Baggara people, who live in the desert north of Kordofan in the west of Sudan. A nomadic Arab people, their portrayal in this set is undoubtedly down to their participation in the Mahdist revolt in the 1880s and 1890s, when the Sudan threw off Egyptian/Turkish rule under the leadership of Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah, who proclaimed himself the Mahdi, and who is best known in the West for causing the death of General Gordon at Khartoum in 1885. Shortly after the fall of Khartoum, the Mahdi, which means 'redeemer of Islam', died from disease and was replaced by his right-hand man, Abdullah Ibn-Mohammed, the Khalifa, who was from the Taaishi tribe.
The forces of the Mahdi and the Khalifa, known as Dervishes or more properly as Ansar, were drawn from all parts of Sudanese society, but the Taaishi were a major component and a good representative of the Arab elements in the movement. Although attempts were later made to impose some form of uniformity on the Ansar, this was never complete, and particularly in the early years each people wore their own traditional dress. The dress on these figures seems Arab-like and therefore reasonable, although they do not look to be wearing the jibbah which has been rather poorly depicted on the box artwork.
Apart from one mounted man all the poses have ring hands to hold the separate weapons as shown. The number of weapons matches the number of hands, so everything has to be used. Neither of the mounted figures looks like they are carrying the rifle, so that must be reserved for the man on foot. He has been given a separate ring hand so he can hold a weapon upright, which works well for all the weapons and gives a good pose although is a little fiddly. The rifle looks ancient, and would have been better as the Remington Rolling-block, of which there were many in the hands of the Ansar, although the model here is still plausible. The spears and sword are typical designs of the time and look good, so all the weaponry is correct. No one here is carrying a shield, which again is quite correct.
The camels on which these men ride are well done and accurately reflect the gait of these animals when running. One has a very slender saddle of doubtful authenticity while the other has no saddle but simply a cloth. The small saddle is covered by the figure so presents no problem, while riding without a full saddle may have been common enough to justify its absence here - as so often evidence is far from conclusive on the point. Naturally no saddles mean the men perch on top of the hump and will need gluing to stay put.
We found no evidence that camels were regularly used in the thick of battle beyond some spirited but not necessarily well-informed Victorian representations, so these men are more likely to have been scouts, messengers and so on - essentially light cavalry. As such the two poses apparently wielding weapons are perhaps not the best. After all, having a sword does you little good when mounted so high up you can’t reach men on the ground, so the throwing spears are the only sensible weapon here. Nevertheless the poses are good, and while not combative the foot warrior is also attractive. The quality of the sculpting is also fine, with good folds in the clothing, and there is no flash or unwanted plastic. The ring hand of the most common pose is partly open, so some may choose to glue the weapon here, but the set is very well engineered.
A much-published photograph of two Taaishi camel-men may well have been the inspiration for this set, which is all to the good. Based on the available evidence there are no apparent problems with accuracy for this set, which it also well made, so while we felt some of the poses were a bit too aggressive this is still a set that depicts its subject very well and makes an interesting addition to the growing range of products for this particular native colonial army.