west Seram, Moluccas, Indonesia
104.5 (h) x 10.0 (w) x 7.5 (d) cm
KIT Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam
On Halmahera and Seram in the Moluccas, elegant slim shields and long swords were used to enact ceremonial war dances before setting out for battle or on a headhunting expedition. Part of a series of preparatory rites, the ritual dances were performed exclusively by men. Later, when the warriors returned with enemy heads, both men and women participated in the victory dances.
This painted Seram shield features stylised motifs [oiale] showing the sun surrounded by frigate birds. The same oiale design, closely associated with the upper realm of the cosmos, appears on the beaten bark loincloths worn by warriors during ceremonial dances.