X2008.47.5 Shield

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Ngala peoples
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Circa 1900
Bamboo, wicker, plant fiber, wood
H: 144.00 cm, W: 25.00 cm, D: 6.80 cm
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Anonymous Gift. X2008.47.5


The concept of basketry shields may initially seem to be a mismatch of creative techniques and materials with the intended function of the object. Yet before the advent of firearms, densely composed basketry and wickerwork shields served as highly effective protective devices in many parts of Africa and could successfully defend against knives, swords, arrows, and spears. Aside from their roles in warfare, shields could have served as ceremonial display items in military processions and formations and when a leader or group of leaders sat in state. In many African cultures shields were also employed as dance implements, tossed and twirled in often virtuosic performances. The highly visible public contexts for shield display explain in part the consummate artistry evident in the examples seen here.

African Basketry Arts, Thinking outside the Basket.