Melanesia, Irian Jaya, New Guinea, Asmat People, 20th Century / War Shield / c. 1940Melanesia, Irian Jaya, New Guinea, Asmat People, 20th Century
War Shield
c. 1940

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Pacific; Melanesian; New Guinean; Papuan; Asmat
Creator Name-CRT: Melanesia, Irian Jaya, New Guinea, Asmat People, 20th Century
Title: War Shield
Title Type: Primary
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1935
Creation End Date: 1945
Creation Date: c. 1940
Object Type: Sculpture
Classification Term: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Painted wood
Dimensions: Overall: 176.5cm x 60.3cm x 7cm
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1963.554
Credit Line: Gift of The May Company, Cleveland
Context: The carving of war shields was celebrated by the Asmat with a special feast, which was immediately followed by a headhunting raid. Each shield was named after an ancestor, who inspired strength and courage in the new owner. Shields were carved from the buttress roots of mangrove trees and decorated with raised symbolic designs. Their surfaces were painted white (lime), red (ochre), and black (charcoal). Motifs frequently carved on shields include squatting ancestors and fruit-eating animals such as flying foxes and hornbills. Fruits are considered analogous to human heads, and thus fruit-eaters symbolize headhunting ancestors. Tassels made from large sago palm leaves once hung from the shield's edges.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1963.554
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, The Cleveland Museum of Art

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