War Shield Asmat People West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia
This fine old and well used shield was collected at Monu Village on the upper Unir River area of the remote Northwest Asmat on the South Coast of West Papua (Irian Jaya) Indonesia. Small Shields like this example are of the oldest style that were collected by Dutch Colonial explorers in the late 19th and early 20th century they were later replaced by larger and more decorative shields made for the art market.
The man in the field photograph was the owner and his name is recorded along with the name of his grandfather who carved this shield.
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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