Shield (baluse)

20th century, 1950–2000
Unknown, 19th century

Object Place: Nias, Indonesia


Overall: 126.5 x 29.5 x 10 cm (49 13/16 x 11 5/8 x 3 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Lightweight wood, rattan fiber

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



By the 1980s most ancient baluse shields had departed Indonesia for Western collections, and people in Nias replaced the originals with modern copies. Made of lightweight wood, these shields are reinforced horizontally with fiber lashes. Their shape may allude to the head of a crocodile, an animal that instills both fear and awe. Originally used in battle, the shields gradually acquired different meaning when warfare ceased in the twentieth century. Today respected visitors may be greeted at the entrance to a village by a “warrior” in ceremonial dress who holds such a shield.


1960/1961, possibly sold by Galerie Argiles, Paris, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart