An Iben war shield

Height : 1.67 m / Width : 1 m

Large shield carved in low relief with curvilinear decoration.

Wood, ocher and white pigments with black highlights

Abau population

Green River area

Provenance :

– The JOLIKA Collection by Marcia & John Friede. Rye, New York

Shields of the Green River area are called iben by the Abau who live along the Sepik River, upstream from its junction with the Yellow River. This very large shield without a handle, was carried and moved by a warrior. Placed in front, he protected his fellows.

The shields were carved from the stilt roots of large trees (kofekan). After cutting the board to the required shape and thickness, the pattern was marked with charcoal. A sharp stone chip was then used to demarcate the lines of the black design, which generally followed a bilateral symmetry, and the wood was carved between the lines to a depth of about five millimeters with a cassowary bone chisel. The chiseled surfaces were then covered with red or orange ochre and white pigment; the raised bands were highlighted in black.

The compositions were not intended to be figurative, but names referring to the characteristics of certain plants or animals could sometimes be attributed to specific motifs.

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