Aboriginal Shield

oceania | Australia

Aboriginal Shield

Australia

Wunda shield
Western Australia

Carved wood and pigments
19th century
Height: 30 in. (76 cm)

Ex Sotheby’s Melbourne, 26-27 June 2000, lot 188
Ex private collection, Maui, Hawai’i

Published: Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale 2022
Wunda shield ex Maui / Galerie Flak Price: on request
The carving and patina attest to the great age and ancient style of this shield. The painted ornamentation is superb.
These shields are called « wunda », a name deriving from the Paljgu word « wunrnda », the name of the wood in which the shields were originally carved.
This type of shield was used for warfare as parrying shields against spears or boomerangs blows.
These shields were also actively traded throughout Western and Central Australia. Lastly, they also played in role in intiations and rituals. The colored motifs on the surface of the shield were totemic symbols related to the « songlines ».

The front side is decorated with red and white linear motifs (incised and painted) while the backside with the handle is painted with horizontal lines.
The linear motifs on the front side of the shield are known as « pandal ».
In his 1987 book The Songlines, British novelist and travel writer, Bruce Chatwin describes the songlines as:
"...the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as 'Dreaming-tracks' or 'Songlines'; to the Aboriginals as the 'Footprints of the Ancestors' or the 'Way of the Law’. Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path - birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes - and so singing the world into existence."

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