We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Wörrumbi (shoulder shield)

mid 20th century
collected 1969


Mendi people

Papua New Guinea

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Kiburu Mendi River Southern Highlands Province Papua New Guinea
    Cultural origin
    Mendi people
    mid 20th century
    collected 1969
    Media category
    Arms & armour
    Materials used
    wood, punctated designs, white, red and blue pigments, vine sling
    128.0 x 43.0 x 2.0 cm
    Purchased 1977
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Mendi people, under the endorsement of the Pacific Islands Museums Association's (PIMA) Code of Ethics

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Mendi people

    Works in the collection


  • About

    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]

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

Other works by Mendi people

See all 7 works