Zulu shield

Archives | South Africa

Zulu shield

South Africa

Wood and hide
Early 20th century
Height: 55 ½ in. (141 cm)

Field-collected in 1947 by Russell B. Aitken
Ex Christie’s, New York (The Russell B. Aitken Collection of African, American Indian and Oceanic Art), 3 April 2003, lot 124
Ex collection Gary Hendershott, Little Rock, USA

Sold
As stated by P. Benitez-Johannot in « Shields. Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania, from the Collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum », Munich, London, New York: Prestel, 2000, p.124:
« Zulu shields are made partly from tanned rawhide dipped in water for hardening and supported by a long wooden pole sewn tightly to the back with two parallel stripes cut from the same hide. A spiritual element went into strengthening the shield: before entering battle, the warriors performed ritual ceremonies to increase the shield's protective powers and enhance the chances of success ».
« Speakers of the Bantu Nguni language, the Zulu and connected groups used shields whose development is credited to two generations of great early nineteenth-century leaders, Dingiswayo and King Shaka.
The former "reorganized the Zulu army into age regiments (impi). He assigned each regiment a distinct type of headdress and cowhide shield. Elite warriors used mostly white shields with one or two black spots; younger warriors used all-black shields; and married warriors used brown shields ».

This shield was collected in 1947, and probably dates back to the early 20th century.
Provenance:
Collected in the field by Russell Aitken in South Africa in 1947.
Russell Barnett Aitken (1910-2002), was an Honorary Trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There is a Russell B. Aitken Gallery within the Metropolitan Museum (see attached appendix for full biography of R. B. Aitken).
Ex Christie's, New York, sale 1278 (The Russell B. Aitken Collection of African, American Indian and Oceanic Art), 3 April 2003, lot 124/5.
Ex collection Gary Hendershott, Little Rock
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