War Shield

Wahgi Valley, Western Highlands
Papua New Guinea

Carved wood, binding, pigments

Early to mid 20th century

Height: 60 ½ in. (154 cm)
Length: 27 ¼ in. (69 cm)

Ex collection Chris Boylan, Sydney

Price: sold

Melanesia – Papua New Guinea
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These large shields, as tall as the men who used them, were used in clan wars that set the rhythm of the life in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
The central design depicts the “Sun”, a classical representation on Wahgi shields. Along the top edge, the binding is particularly fine.

War shields in the Highlands
In all parts of New Guinea, and notably in the central mountains (Highlands), the various clans or tribes constantly competed for control of the best lands. Shields were named after warriors. They were imbued with a life essence, or spirit, that connected them to their ancestors. When warfare was expected, warriors repainted their shields to ensure that the colors shone brilliantly against the sun to dazzle and threaten the opposing side.