Papua New Guinea
Warrumbi war shield
Southern Highlands, Nembi plateau
Carved and painted wood
Early 20th century
Height: 47 ¼ in. (120 cm)
Collected by Chris Boylan
Ex collection Marcia & John Friede (Jolika collection)
New Guinea Highlands, Art from the Jolika Collection, De Young Museum, San Francisco, p.143
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. In the western Pacific, shields bore the name of warriors, and possessed a life force, or spirit, that connected them to their ancestors.
As stated by Chris Boylan who previously owned this sculpture, shields of the Mendi Valley are generally painted in simple bold designs that incorporate geometric and abstract designs.
Red is the color of victory (and blood). The shield is carved from a wood species known locally as "war" – hence the name for a shield, warrumbi: meaning literally “wall of the war tree”.