In former times, warfare and headhunting were prevalent throughout Nias, with both activities considered vital to a society’s prosperity. Success in warfare increased wealth and power through the accumulation of assets and slaves, and the collection of enemy heads was deemed necessary as a precursor to the creation of temples and gold ornaments and secondary burial rites. Among some communities it was also required in preparation for marriage.
The trappings of a warrior included adornments to signify success and rank, protective clothing and weapons such as swords, spears and large
shields. The typical Nias warrior’s shield or ‘baluse’ was used in battle as well as ritual performances.
Carved in the form of a stylised leaf shaped from a single piece of wood, this ‘baluse’ is embellished with cords of rattan that run from the back of
the shield across the face. These may have served to strengthen the shield and lend the surface a reptilian appearance.
late 19th century-early 20th century
wood, steel, wire and rattan
125.0 x 34.5 x 9.5 cm
Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019
Referenced in 1 publication
Ancestral art of the Indonesian archipelago, Sydney, 2017, 61 (colour illus.).