An Ethiopian Amhara shield
East-Africa, Abyssinia, Ethiopian Empire – second half 19th century.
Materials: Hide (Buffalo), Velvet, Leather, Steel, Brass.
The Ethiopian name for these type of shields is called ‘Tafa‘ or ‘Gasha‘ and was considered of large importance among warriors and status holders in the Amhara culture. The shields were often carried by boys behind their high ranked master to show his importance. The decoration and use of brass and gold on these shields began after the Amharic conquests and are mostly seen in the late 19th to early 20th century. During the reign of Emperor Menelik II (1889-1913), many tribal captives were formed as imperial guards to protect the emperor and were equipped with similar shields. Most warriors were equipped with a shield, a sword ‘shotel‘ with its distinguished curve and a spear or musket.
A good authentic example. Conical mid section and reinforced rim. The Buffalo hide shields is covered in red velvet, an important feature displaying the owners rank. The front was added with a large amount of thin brass gilded cut and engraved panels. The center has a brass buckle accompanied by four bosses which are decorated in the same manner.
The back of the shield was covered with a thin layer of leather which is partially worn due to its age and atmospherical environment. The handle is sturdy and made of leather and long enough to hold the owners forearm.
Condition: Good, some rings were detached and damaged, the leather is worn on the back of the shield, but maintains further original and with a fine patination.
Dimensions: 45 x 45 x 20 cm
Provenance: Dutch private collection
Sources: Benitez & Barbier’s ‘Shields, Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania’ p.98-99
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