A Broad Shield, Murray River, Victoria pipe clay and natural earth pigments on carved and engraved hardwood Length: 86.0cm
PROVENANCE Private collection, South Shropshire, United Kingdom Brightwells Antiques & Fine Art, Antiques & Fine Art including Ethnic & Tribal Art, Herefordshire, United Kingdom, 24 August 2011, lot 574 United Kingdom Private collection, New South Wales
Cf. For a closely related example see Yves Le Fur (ed.), Musée du Quai Branly: The Collection Art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, Flammarion and Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, 2009, p.239 (illus.)
Known as Gee-am or Kerreem by the Gulin people who manufactured them, these shields were used only in group conflict and as such, played a significant totemic role in the regulation of social order in south-eastern Aboriginal Australia.1
Their construction is described in some detail by 19th century geologist, author and social commentator Robert Brough Smyth who states: 'In making these shields some skill is necessary. After the bark is taken from the tree, and rudely shaped in the form desired, a mound of earth is raised some three feet in length, and about half the breadth of the bark; hot ashes are placed on the mound, the bark is laid thereon, and it is covered with heavy stones and sods. The green bark, by the time the ashes are cold, has taken the curve of the mound, and the finishing and ornamenting of the weapon are pursued at leisure. The natives of Lake Tyers call this shield Bam-er-ook.' 2
1 Philip Jones in Yves Le Fur (ed.), Musée du Quai Branly: The Collection - Art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, Flammarion and Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, 2009, p. 238 2 The Aborigines of Victoria with notes relating to the habits of the Natives of other Parts of Australia and Tasmania, Volume 1, John Ferres - Government Printer, London, 1878, p.332
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