Shields

Paradise - - Contents -

WHAT ARE THEY?

Shields, de­pend­ing on their shape and de­sign, can be used as a de­fence against throw­ing spears and clubs or for close com­bat. Smaller shields were worn as body ar­mour. They can also have cer­e­mo­nial uses.

WHERE ARE THEY MADE ?

Shields are made across Pa­pua New Guinea, but have a par­tic­u­larly abun­dant num­ber of forms in the High­lands and Sepik re­gions, where war­fare was once com­mon. You can get a first in­di­ca­tion of a shield’s ori­gins from its shape: for ex­am­ple, Sulka and Mendi shields are oval, Tro­briand Is­land shields are pear shaped, and Kan­drian and Tele­fomin shields are rec­tan­gu­lar.

WHO MAKES THEM?

Shields are usu­ally made by the war­riors. In some places, such as the Tro­briand Is­lands, only the most skilled war­riors had the right to make and carry the best and most elab­o­rately dec­o­rated shields.

HOW ARE THEY MADE ?

Shields are carved from wood and may be smooth or have raised bosses. Kan­drian shields are made from three wooden planks lashed to­gether with rat­tan, and in some re­gions shields were once made from bark. Be­cause of their fragility, these are now quite rare. Sulka shields are cov­ered with criss-crossed cane to help ab­sorb blows from clubs. Adze marks gen­er­ally in­di­cate an older shield made with stone tools, as most mod­ern (post-World War 2) shields are carved with metal im­ple­ments. Loop han­dles on the back are gen­er­ally made from rat­tan cane.

HOW ARE THEY DE CORA TED ?

Shield dec­o­ra­tion varies widely from re­gion to re­gion, but in gen­eral fea­tures bright colours and strik­ing de­signs that are cre­ated to in­tim­i­date the en­emy, con­vey a spir­i­tual mes­sage, or rep­re­sent the par­tic­u­lar cul­ture of the bearer. Rep­re­sen­ta­tions of na­ture such as fly­ing foxes, conus shells or tur­tles are com­mon mo­tifs. How­ever, Tele­fomin shields are strik­ing for their an­gu­lar geo­met­ric pat­terns, while Sepik shields of­ten de­pict hu­man or spirit faces. Shields from the Tro­briand Is­lands are of­ten con­sid­ered PNG’s most el­e­gant, as they have very de­tailed mo­tifs. From the 1970s, con­tem­po­rary, for­eign in­flu­ences have been felt on shield de­sign, the most fa­mous be­ing Mount Ha­gen shields de­pict­ing the comic-book hero Phan­tom.

HOW WERE THEY USED TRADI TIONALLY?

PNG war­riors did not carry shields on the fore­arm like me­dieval knights, but slung them over their shoul­der to pro­tect their side, while leav­ing both hands free for us­ing weapons – more as body ar­mour than an ac­tual shield. Such shields have a distinc­tive notch at the top to fit un­der the armpit. In con­trast, the much larger atkom shields were car­ried into bat­tle by un­armed shield bear­ers and used to shel­ter bow­men who stood in a line be­hind. Shields were of­ten given per­sonal names and were con­sid­ered by some groups to be a re­cep­ta­cle of an­ces­tral power. Not all were used in war­fare, with some shields re­served for cer­e­mony.

WHERE CAN SHIE LDS BE BOUGHT?

You can find shields made for tourists in craft shops, and an­tique ver­sions in more up­mar­ket gal­leries. Fine ex­am­ples some­times go un­der the ham­mer at in­ter­na­tional auc­tion houses for tens of thou­sands of dol­lars.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Papua New Guinea

© PressReader. All rights reserved.