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Collection

An image of Wörrumbi (shoulder shield) by
Alternate image of Wörrumbi (shoulder shield) by

Kiburu, Mendi River, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

Title
Wörrumbi (shoulder shield)
Place of origin
KiburuMendi RiverSouthern Highlands ProvincePapua New Guinea
Cultural origin
Mendi people
Year
mid 20th century
collected 1969
Media category
Arms & armour
Materials used
wood, punctated designs, white, red and blue pigments, vine sling
Dimensions

128.0 x 43.0 x 2.0 cm

Credit
Purchased 1977
Accession number
266.1977
Copyright
© Mendi people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics
Location
Temporary exhibitions gallery
Further information

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, warfare between Mendi tribes and clans was rife. Wooden fighting shields were commonly carried in mass battles, where fighters decorated their bodies with oil, paint, feathers and leaves. The 'wörrumbi' was carried by bowmen in open lines of combat. Carved from a solid piece of hardwood, and slung from the shoulder by a strap threaded through the centre of the shield, the 'wörrumbi' was very effective against bone-tipped arrows and spears.

'Wörrumbi' shields are noted for their distinctive ridge or 'mesha' (spine). This forms a central axis for pecked, incised and painted forms that symmetrically cover the surface. The designs are believed to represent anthropomorphic figures and they are typically coloured with red ochre and white mineral pigment traded in from the west. This shield also has two small holes at the top to which bird plumes were secured.

[Exhibition text for 'Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands', AGNSW, 2014]

Bibliography (3)

John Baily., Special exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia: Seventh Adelaide Festival of Arts 1972, 'Art of Oceania', Adelaide, 1972. cat.no. 104; not paginated

Tony Tuckson, Melanesian art, Sydney, 1966, 30 (illus.), 50. H26; titled 'Shield'

Natalie Wilson (Editor), Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Sydney, 2014, 93 (colour illus.), 161. cat.no. 37

Exhibition history (3)

Arts of Oceania: Seventh Adelaide Festival of Arts 1972, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Mar 1972–Mar 1972

Aboriginal and Melanesian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Oct 1974 -

Plumes and pearlshells: art of the New Guinea highlands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 May 2014–10 Aug 2014