Lot 113
  • 113

War Shield, Telefolmin, Mountain Ok, upper Sepik River, Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea

10,000 - 15,000 USD
10,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood


Lynda Cunningham, New York, acquired in situ in the late 1960s or early 1970s

Catalogue Note

This boldly carved and highly graphic shield is a classic example of the old war shields, atkom, produced by the Mountain Ok people of the Highlands of western Papua New Guinea. According to Barry Craig, "Mountain Ok shields were carried into battle by unarmed shieldbearers sheltering a line of bowmen behind them." (Craig in Hays, and Hellmich, eds., New Guinea Highlands: Art from the Jolika Collection, San Francisco, 2017, p. 527). Discussing shields from the Jolika Collection, Chris Boylan notes that "the Mountain Ok readily identify elements of the design - such as 'eyes', 'heart', 'arms', 'wings', 'hornbill beak', and so on - but never give an explanation of the overall design. It is probable that these names are merely names and do no necessarily indicate that the design elements carry meanings. [...] it is clear, however, that the shields as objects are thought of in anthropomorphic terms. They are given personal names and are believed to acquire courage against enemy arrows. Other qualities suggest that they are vehicles of ancestral power." (Boylan in Friede, Hays, and Hellmich, eds., ibid., pp. 148 and 153).