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A Fine Old New Guinea Shield Telefomin Area West Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

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Collection No. TB-2403
Size Height: 153cm x 72cm Width
New Guinea Oceanic Art
New Guinea & Oceanic Art
Abelam New Guinea Art

A Fine Old New Guinea Shield Telefomin Area West Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

This fine old and well-used Shield from the Telefomin Area in the Star Mountains area of the West Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea.

Among the Telefomin and related groups, their War Shields were considered to be ancestral relics and were kept in men’s ceremonial houses.

The Telefomin are also famous for their carved & painted Ceremonial House Boards and Doors that have designs that are often similar to their Shields. These carvings  were attached to the front of  the Men’s Ceremonial House.  (also see the great Telefomin Door on my website)

The construction of the Men’s Ceremonial House with carved doors and panels also coincided with the eligibility of the house to store ancestral relics like Shields.   The spiritual ‘heat’ of such relics was believed to be a danger to the well-being of women and children so ancestral relics were kept only in men’s ritual houses. In the men’s ritual houses, boys and young men passed through several stages of initiation into the mysteries of the ancestors and the rituals that ensured the growth of the staple crop (taro), the health and welfare of the community, and success in hunting and warfare.

The designs on the Shields were specific to a clan and area specific and the designs had ancestral power, each shield had its own personal name. This fine Shield has deeply incised designs with a central motif and the edge of the shield has a serrated triangular border.  The designs are highlighted with red, white & black ochre.  On the back of the shield, you can see how it was held with a crossed bamboo strap going from corner to corner.

Warfare was widespread among traditional enemies in neighboring areas and alliances were made & broken regularly between different groups. These large rectangular shields were used in battle by two men, one pushing the shield forward and another warrior hiding behind the shield and free to use his bow and arrows with great accuracy.

This shield would date from the 1940’s-1950’s.

Provenance: Collected in the 1960’s by an Australian expat Barry Ison who was working in New Guinea in the 1960’s

The Todd Barlin  Collection of New Guinea Oceanic Art 


Dr Barry Craig is a true New Guinea Art expert who lived in the Telefomin area in the 1960’s.  His Chapter in the Book: ” Shields of Melanesia ” 2005 Chapter: 5.2 pages 117 -124. This gives the clearest information on Shields from this area.

This whole book mainly on New Guinea Shields is one of the best references ever published.

I have been collecting New Guinea Shields since 1983 when I bought my very shield, over the next 38 years I bought the very best New Guinea Shields that I could for my own personal collection; The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic Shields.

I helped write three chapters in the most important book on New Guinea Shields, ” Shields of Melanesia ” 2005  edited by Harry Beran and Barry Craig.  

3.1 Shields from the North Coast of Western New Guinea: Pages 28- 32 : West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

5.1 The Shields of the Highlands of Western New Guinea : Pages 112- 1117  :  Yali Shields Central Highlands West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

6.1 Shields from the Southern Lowlands of Western New Guinea: Pages 155-165 : Four areas of  The Asmat People and Digul River areas.

I first went to Papua New Guinea in 1985 for an adventure & what I found was that I really enjoyed being with the people of New Guinea, over the next 38 years I spent extensive time spent collecting and documenting traditional art & ceremonies in remote areas of Papua New Guinea & West Papua, The Solomon Islands & Vanuatu & the other Pacific Islands countries. During these travels, I made major collections of New Guinea & Oceanic Art for major Museums and Public Art Galleries

I was honoured by being in the prestigious Louvre Museum Magazine for the collections I made for The Museum of African & Oceanic Art Paris in1996 (now the Musee Quai Branly) for the exhibition “Asmat et Mimika d’ Irian Jaya April 1996 At THE MUSEE NATIONAL des ARTS D’AFRIQUE et d’ OCEANIE, Paris

See all of the links & photos in my new EXHIBITIONS GALLERY and there is the link to the article in the prestigious Louvre Magazine 1996

I have artwork for Museums & Art Galleries but also for collectors at every stage of their collecting. I want to encourage people to explore the fine art of New Guinea & West Papua and the Pacific Islands and to be able to see and touch the artworks in a relaxed and friendly manner in my Sydney Gallery.  I would like to invite you to visit my gallery and see the artworks in person and also look at my website www.oceanicartsaustralia.com  where there are many Galleries & Sub Galleries to explore.

My Gallery of nearly 40 years is the last physical gallery in Sydney that specialises in New Guinea & Oceanic Art. Sydney is just a couple hours’ flight to New Guinea & the Pacific Islands where all of these amazing artworks came from, Australia’s closest neighbours. 


If you have a similar “object” for sale please contact me for the best price and honest advice by a Government approved valuer 

To see many more rare items and the finest masterpieces, please make an appointment with us to visit the gallery.

For all inquiries, please contact us.