Hide Shield, Kenya, Masai, Early 20th Century
Code: 10226 Dimensions:W 61cm (24")H 86cm (33.9")D 10cm (3.9")
1920s Kenyan Massai warriors shield. Great visual impact, graphic, almost abstract decoration. A note: Shields remain one of the Maasai warrior's most important tools. They were used in warfare and hunting as well as practice and training. Outside of the warring context, however, shields were used in rites of passage and also functioned as prestige objects and symbols of identification. Maasai society is organized into distinct age and sex grades. Early twentieth-century studies revealed that spear markings and shield designs were once used to differentiate some of these Maasai subgroups and also hinted at a larger, complex lineage identification system. Shield designs are known as sirata, many of which have fallen into disuse and are poorly understood even by the Maasai themselves.