Old Shield Asmat People West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia
This beautiful old and well used shield was collected by me in Djakapis in 1985. At that time Djakapis village was one of the most remote villages in the North West Asmat Area. None of the villagers spoke even a small amount of Bahasa Indonesia so all interaction between us was done by just watching each other and pantomime. The owner of the shield in the field photograph has his name recorded along with the name of the carver of the shield. Also at this time, there was still sporadic tribal fighting with Irogo and Pupis villages generally over the kidnapping of women which is their only way to increase their genetic pool in a small village. Djakapis is a small village of less than 50 people. Asmat Shields were important objects that venerated their ancestors, each shield had a personal name and when invoked during warfare the enemy was said to be frightened or stunned and easy to kill.
I spent a lot of time in the Asmat region in the early 1980’s and old and used Shields of this quality in the Coastal and Northwest Asmat Areas were rare. Many of the artworks I field collected then are now in major museum collections around the world including The Musee du Quai Branly Museum in Paris, when you walk into the Oceanic Art Pavilion at The Musee du Quai Branly the first thing you see are the monumental ancestor poles from the Asmat & Mimika along with Dance Costumes Shields and large Soul Canoe , all of these were field collected by me. Originally they were in an exhibition ” Asmat et Mimika at The National Museum of African and Oceanic Art in 1996 (now that museum is part of The Musee du Quai Branly). The exhibition the Asmat and Mimika in 1996 was published in the prestigious Louvre Museum Magazine see the link below and a photo of the exhibition above.
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