MENDI, SHOULDER SHIELD (ELAYABOOR), PAPUA NEW GUINEA
GUINEA; 1st half 20th c.; Wood, paint; 30 1/2" x 15"; Provenance: Tambaran Gallery, New York; Allan Stone Collection, New York (acquired from the above in July 1981)
Sale Price: $16,250
Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500
Most battles in Melanesia were fought with projectiles (spears, spear throwers, throwing clubs or sticks, stones, and more recently, the bow and arrow). Shields were the defense, often adorned with powerful motifs, color, and symbols to protect the carrier from magic or impart fear in an opponent. Melanesians made cover or parrying shields for use on the move: either rectangular shields of bark (shomo) or wooden shields. Wooden shields came in two forms: oval shields, called wörumbi, and eláyaborr, characterized by a wide notch at the top that the wearer would put his arm through, thereby keeping the shield close to his body. Melanesians also made standing shields like this one, thought to have been used in protecting villages or as stationary cover after a battle has commenced. Papua New Guinea Highlands shields are still being made and used in tribal warfare.
War Shields and Dance Masks of Papua New Guinea, Western Australian Museum, Government of Western Australia, http://museum.wa.gov.auShield, Melanesia, New Guinea Arts, Collections, Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva, Switzerland, http://www.barbier-mueller.ch