Indiana University Indiana University IU

Culture Maasai
Title Shield
Date 20th century
Medium Hide, wood, and and dye
Dimensions Object: 37 1/2 × 26 3/4 × 9 3/4 in. (95.3 × 67.9 × 24.8 cm)
Overall: 37 1/2 × 26 3/4 × 9 3/4 in. (95.3 × 67.9 × 24.8 cm)
Credit Line Museum purchase with funds from the Raymond and Laura Wielgus fund and with generous support from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2014.290

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About this Work

A shield, such as this one, was one of the most important objects owned by a Maasai warrior, or moran, which he used not only in warfare and hunting but also as an indicator of his status and prestige.

A moran made his own shield from the hide of a buffalo he had hunted and killed. He sewed the hide to a wooden frame, and attached a wooden handle to the center of the back. Patterns painted in red, black, and white predominate on the front, and all colors were obtained from natural sources: red from mixing earth with blood or the red sap from a particular fruit, white from local clay, and black from the skins of burned calabashes or gourds. Researchers believe that the designs on Maasai shields once related to subgroups and lineages or indicated personal achievements of the shield’s owner; however, the meanings of most of those patterns are no longer understood.

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Shield | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.