Shield (balulang)

Sa'dan Toraja peoples
late 19th century
more object details

General Description

Whether this shield’s imagery records real events or is simply the product of an artist’s lively imagination is unknown. The meanings of the colors and some of the motifs, however, can be interpreted. The cardinal points are represented by four elemental colors. White (north) and yellow (east) are associated with the creator god Puang Matua and the deities, and with the life-enhancing Rites of the East. Red (south) and black (west), on the other hand, are associated with the ancestors and the mortuary Rites of the West. The two sunbursts resembling hypnotic eyes and the fowls painted on the yellow panel are associated with the heavens.

The Toraja made two types of shields: those to use in warfare or raids and those to display in mock combat or war dances. This painted buffalo-hide shield was probably made for ceremonial purposes. It was most likely part of a costume worn by performers of the pa’randing warriors’ dance, which serves as a mark of status at high-ranking funerals.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.