Mar 30, 2021
Mar 30, 2021

War Shield

War Shield

c. 1940

Painted wood

Overall: 176.5 x 60.3 x 7 cm (69 1/2 x 23 3/4 x 2 3/4 in.)

Gift of The May Company, Cleveland 1963.554

Location

Description

The carving of war shields was celebrated by the Asmat with a special feast, which was immediately followed by a headhunting raid. Each shield was named after an ancestor, who inspired strength and courage in the new owner. Shields were carved from the buttress roots of mangrove trees and decorated with raised symbolic designs. Their surfaces were painted white (lime), red (ochre), and black (charcoal). Motifs frequently carved on shields include squatting ancestors and fruit-eating animals such as flying foxes and hornbills. Fruits are considered analogous to human heads, and thus fruit-eaters symbolize headhunting ancestors. Tassels made from large sago palm leaves once hung from the shield's edges.

See also
Collection: 
Oceanic Art
Department: 
Oceania
Type of artwork: 
Sculpture
Medium: 
Painted wood

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email imageservices@clevelandart.org.