The mountainous region of Central Cordillera in northern Luzon is home to a large number of indigenous communities. Their fierce self-determination and geographic isolation provided relative protection from the cultural influences of Spanish colonisation. However, their art did not remain unchanged. Communities retained forms which were useful and meaningful, abandoned others and created new forms to meet new purposes – a tradition that has continued into 21st century.
In Central Cordillera art is part of everyday life and is intrinsically linked to community and spiritual wellbeing. Many villages are built around a central stone platform where social and spiritual rites are performed. These include the worship of deities and ancestors and the consecration of sculptural figures.
The carving of ancestral and religious figures, while today most prevalent among Ifugao men, was previously a practise shared by all communities of the Central Cordilleran mountain range. Textiles, on the other hand, are woven exclusively by women using backstrap looms. There has been a long and active trade in locally woven products, so many communities share techniques and an appreciation for similar motifs and colour schemes.
This long rectangular shield with protruding parts at the top and bottom imitates the form of a man with his arms raised. It is one of the best-known shield types shared among the Bontoc, Kalinga and Tinguian people. A carved outline and the concave shape of the shield – designed to provide optimum protection for the user’s body – gives further form to the sculptural figure. The single line of rattan lashed horizontally across the shield to prevent splitting adds further decoration.
86.0 x 26.7 cm
Gift of Dr John Yu and Dr George Soutter 2005
Shown in 1 exhibition
Passion and procession: art of the Philippines, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Jun 2017–28 Jan 2018