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Asian art

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Warrior's shield (baluse)

late 19th century-early 20th century


Unknown Artist


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.


Place where the work was made

Nias Indonesia

Cultural origin



late 19th century-early 20th century

Media category

Arms & armour

Materials used

wood, steel, wire and rattan


125.0 x 34.5 x 9.5 cm


Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019


Thorpe Gallery, pre 1994, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia

Christopher Wilson, 1994-1996, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, puchased from Thorpe Gallery (art dealership), Sydney.

Mariann Ford, 1996-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, inherited from the estate of Christopher Wilson. Gift to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.

Referenced in 1 publication


Niki van den Heuvel, Ancestral art of the Indonesian archipelago, Sydney, 2017, 61 (colour illus.).