[flahy-hwisk, -wisk]

A fly-whisk is a tool to swat or disturb flies. It is used as a regalia in some cultures.

In Indonesian art, a fly-whisk is one of the items associated with Shiva. The fly-whisk is frequently seen as an attribute of both Hindu, Daoist, and Buddhist deities. The fly-whisk is evident in some configurations of the Ashtamangala, employed in some traditions of murti puja, particularly the Gaudiya Vaishnava.

Fly-whisks are in use in parts of the contemporary Middle East, such as Egypt, by some classes of society, e.g. outdoor merchants and shop keepers, specially in summer when flies become too bothersome. Those have a wooden handle and plant fibers attached to them. The more expensive ones are made from horse hairs.

Fly-whisks appear frequently in traditional regalia in many parts of the African continent. This use has sometimes carried on into modern contexts: Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta carried a fly-whisk, a mark of authority in Maasai society, as did Malawian leader Hastings Banda, while South African jazz musician Jabu Khanyile also used a Maasai fly-whisk as a trademark when on stage.

A fly-whisk forms part of the royal regalia of Thailand. It consists of the tail hairs of an albino elephant. Fly-whisks were also used in Polynesian culture as a ceremonial mark of authority.

Algeria incident

In 1827, the last Ottoman ruler of Algeria, Hussein Dey, struck the French Consul in the face with a fly-whisk during a dispute over unpaid French debts to Algeria. This insult became a pretext for the French invasion of Algeria in 1830.

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