Dazzling the enemy:
shields from the Pacific

14 May – 16 August 2009

Exhibition closed

Room 91

This exhibition explores conflict and social life in the islands of the western Pacific. In particular, it highlights the many remarkable shields used across the region to dazzle and demoralise an enemy both in warfare and ritual.

On display are over forty shields from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and West Papua. Included is one of the oldest Pacific shields in the world, dating back to 1851, as well as contemporary shields collected in the 1980s. Many of the shields in the exhibition have never been displayed before. Historical and contemporary photographs illustrating the shields in action are also on display.

The exhibition reveals how warriors in the western Pacific were not camouflaged, but how their appearance was itself a form of psychological warfare, designed to daunt opponents. Shields decorated with bold and dazzling designs were a key feature of this strategy to visually intimidate an enemy.

Bowman’s shield