19th Century
28.5 in HIGH x 9 in WIDE
(72.39 cm HIGH x 22.86 cm WIDE)
Queensland, Australia
Museum Purchase

Shields (A & B). used in warfare against spears & boomerangs "Crude - handle carved into body of shield used in warfare against spears and boomerangs" (Gray Notebook) "The shields were only of one pattern, oblong in shape, with ends rounded, and about 2' long by 1' wide. They were sometimes called helemon, a word borrowed from the New South Wales dialects, but the local name was kunmarim, after the carrajong tree, from the wood of which they were formed. They had to be thick to allow of a handle being made at the back by cutting and burning a hollow under a short longitudinal bar. Although very light the wood was exceedingly tough. The front was generally coloured with red and white pigment by way of ornamentation. John Mathew, 1910, p. 123." (Gray Notebook) "Formed from solid blocks of wood. Holding handle carved out. Outer surface convex and ornamented with large design in color. Used in warfare against spears and boomerangs." (Gray Notebook) "18-390B - shield. Queensland, Australia. 27.75" L 8.875" W" (warehouse card) "Shield. Queensland, Australia. H-28.5" W-9" (warehouse card) Purchased from the Australian Commission at the Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915. (Donor file) "Alice Springs, Desert area." (Australian aboriginal artists, 5/3/94) On 5/3/94, eight Aboriginal artists from Port Keats-Wadeye in Australia's Northern Territiory visited the museum and reviewed ethnographic collections identified as being Australian. The artists were: Leo Marru Melpi, Angus Ngananye Melpi, Lawrence Biallum Kolumboort, Wilfred Ngunbal Mardigan, Guiseppe Nganthamurri Lantjin, Cletus Dumoo, Robin Nilco, William Parmbuk (Port Keats Council President). Lawrence and Leo are elders who viewed the collections before the others to make sure that there were no objects that the others should not see. Staff and interns present for the collections review were Carey Caldwell, Valerie Verzuh, Denise Antes, and Victoria Bradshaw. The artists' Bay Area visit was organized by Father Hillary Martin (who accompanied them on the museum visit) under the sponsorship of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at the Graduate Theological Union. Father Martin has made frequent trips to the Port Keats area in recent years. After viewing the collections, the artists spent time at the museum. A special reception was held in their honor at the museum that afternoon during which the artists' displayed and discussed their work and sang several songs accompanied by the didjerido. Several California Indians in attendance (including David Risling and Kathy Wallace), in turn, shared songs and words about their culture with the Australians. See file "Australian Aboriginal Artists, 5/3/94" among Pacific Regional Collections Documentation records for further information. (Dr. Philip A. Clarke 9/96) "This object is of the type typically made by Aboriginal people from the Dianantia River district to the Coopers Creek district which covers the North East region of South Australia and the South West region of Queensland. Although this type of object is well represented in Australian ethnographic collections, specimens are not commonly encountered on the open market." Clarke states that the aboriginal terms previously cited from "Gray Notebook" do not apply to this piece. He also believes that, although Alice Springs may have been the point of acquisition, it is unlikely that the object came (was made) from there. The item is made from bean tree wood (Erythrina vespertilio). Resin, and red and white ochres are found on this piece.

Used: war

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