Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Zulu (South Africa)
    Five Shields
    Cowhide, wood
    (1)Height: 54 ½ inches Width: 23 ½ inches
    (2)Height: 23 inches Width: 15 inches
    (3)Height: 34 ¼ inches Width:13 inches
    (4)Height: 36 inches Width: 15 ½ inches
    (5)Height: 37 ¾ inches Width:21 ½ inches

    Speakers of the Bantu Nguni language, the Zulu and connected groups used shields whose development is credited to two generations of great early nineteenth-century leaders, Dingiswayo and King Shaka. The former "reorganized the Zulu army into age regiments (impi) ... He assigned each regiment a distinct type of headdress and cowhide shield. Elite warriors used mostly white shields with one or two black spots; younger warriors used all-black shields; and married warriors used brown shields ..." (P. Benitez-Johannot in P. Benitez-Johannot and Jean Paul Barbier. Shields. Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania, from the Collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum. Munich, London, New York: Prestel, 2000, p.124). Examples of each of these categories are included in this lot.
    These shields "are made partly from tanned rawhide dipped in water for hardening and supported by a long wooden pole sewn tightly to the back with two parallel stripes cut from the same hide. A spiritual element went into strengthening the shield: before entering battle, the warriors performed ritual ceremonies to increase the shield's protective powers and enhance the chances of success" (Benitez-Johannet, loc. cit.).
    All five shields show wear at the edges and varying minor losses of hair. One has a pale yellow stain visible near the center of the front.

    Provenance: Gary Hendershott, Little Rock
    Christie's, New York: sale 1278 (The Russell B. Aitken Collection of African, American Indian and Oceanic Art), 3 April 2003, lot 124/5 (p.82).
    Collected by Russell Aitken "whilst on safari" in 1947.

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2007
    7th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,263

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold on Jun 7, 2007 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 October 4 Illustration Art Signature Auction.

    Learn about consigning with us

    I knew I could count on you.
    Marc E.,
    Berlin, Germany
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search