SW-14 Fighting Shield, Wahgi Valley

Shields & Weapons

SW-14 Fighting Shield, Wahgi Valley

Western Highlands, PNG Wood, fibre, paint.

This is an old shield, seemingly used in battle, and beautifully painted in triangular motifs. It was almost certainly made post-contact, meaning approx 1950s, when warfare went on, but much repressed by the Australian colonial administration. It seems also that it was probably used later, in 1980s when warfare started to re-emerge after Independence ( 1975); and this before the introduction of guns into tribal warfare that began to occur in the 1990s.
The main motif is a large “X”, that implies an anthropomorphic form, an ancestor form, with arms up and legs apart. Across the middle and top and bottom edges are embellished with triangles, painted alternatively in red, green and white. The design has a wonderful asymmetry. The top edge has a very fine woven cane edge, that symbolises a warrior’s headband. In warfare, feathers (generally cassowary spikes) are added that are the shield’s “headdress” that also increase the boldness of the shield in battle.


153 x 59 cm

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