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Wunda Shield, West Australia, 19th Century


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Collection No. TB-1648
Size Height 77cm x 17cm
Wunda Shield, West Australia, 19th Century
Wunda Shield, West Australia, 19th Century
Wunda Shield, West Australia, 19th Century
Wunda Shield, West Australia, 19th Century

The fine old and well used Wunda Shield from Western Australia and dating from the late 19th Century.

Wunda Shields are one of the finest of all Aboriginal Shields made in by the indigenous people of Australia. An early Wunda shield is beautifully carved in an oval form from a thin hard wood, they are slightly convex on the front and slightly concave with a lug handle on the back. They adorned with incised bold zig zag patterns consisting of a series of longitudinal grooves accented with red and white ochre, Wunda shields were once used across a large portion of the vast state of Western Australia.  Most of the Wunda Shields have the zig zag designs on the front and the reverse can either have either other types of abstract designs or vertical striations over the entire back surface.

Although widely distributed in the region, the shields appear to have been produced mainly by peoples living in the area between the Gascoyne and Murchison rivers, which drain into Australia’s western coast, and traded to other groups along a vast network of inland exchange routes.

Like many forms of Aboriginal shields, Wunda were used in fighting for protection against projectile weapons, such as spears and boomerangs. They were also carried by performers in ritual contexts, especially when ceremonies reenacting specific episodes from the Dreaming (primordial creation period), in which ancestral beings were said to have been armed with shields.
Many of these old Wunda Shields where collected in the late 19th Century, they were old at the time it’s likely that these are from the early 19th Century due to their age when collected.

Provenance:
Ex Kelly Collection, a Western Australian Farmer in 1890s

References:

Further information on the designs of Wunda Shield can be found on this article:

The Symbolism of the North-Western Australian Zigzag Design

Author(s): C. G. von Brandenstein

Source: Oceania, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Mar., 1972), pp. 223-238

Published by: Wiley on behalf of Oceania Publications, University of Sydney