An Early Narrow Shield, early-mid nineteenth century
The parrying shield is made from a single piece of wood that has the handle cut into it. Parrying shields are solid and narrow to parry, or ward off, blows from clubs. These shields often have three or four sides with incised front-facing designs.
The skill and time involved in creating shields indicates their cultural importance. Engraved with myriad lines, south-eastern shields best exemplify the region’s artistic cultural practice. These shields are often cloaked in an array of diamonds, zigzags, squares, bands, circles, criss-crosses and the occasional figure. These iconic designs empower the shield bearer by representing country and identifying both regional and clan affiliations. As seen in the imagery of both William Barak and Tommy McRae, broad and parrying shields played a central role in south-east ceremonies. Shields used in performance would often be painted with natural pigments, remnants of which can still be seen on many today.