Old Shield, Tijak Area, Eastern Asmat, West Papua
This old and well used shield was collected on the Upper Eilanden River Area during a field trip in 1985. At this time the people were still living nomadically in the forest in tree houses for safety. Sometimes you did not see any people going up river but on the way down there would be men waiting on the river bank to see who was in their area from the sound of an outboard motor on my canoe.
This Shield was from the same people as the one published in the book ” Shields of Melanesia ” 2005 Edited by Harry Beran & Barry Craig. The chapter 6.1 pages 155 – 165 were written by me and the shield on page 161 Fig 6.8 is very likely to be by the same artist, the design is very close each other.
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. Old shields were family heirlooms.
I spent a lot of time in the Asmat region in the early 1980’s and old 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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