New Britain
20th century
Artist Unidentified, Pacific Islander

Object Place: Southwest coast of New Britain, New Britain, Papua New Guinea


Overall: 129 x 30 x 6 cm (50 13/16 x 11 13/16 x 2 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, rattan, lime, pigment

Not On View


Africa and Oceania



Arawe shields (ilo) are polyxylous, combining several planks of wood from a species of palm tree that are bound together by natural fibers. The front of the shields follow a relatively uniform decorative pattern of either four, six, or eight pairs of concentric circles with several bands of triangular patterns interspersed between the circles. Red, white, and black are the primary colors used for painting the designs on the front of the shield. The backs of the shields are also decorated. However, the decoration on the back of the shield is not standardized and is particular to the owner of the shield. In addition to being painted, the back of the shield may also have low-relief carvings. The patterns on the back of the shield refer to the political and spiritual power of the owner and are similar to patterns found on barkcloth belts.


1974, sold by Island Carvings, Lae, Papua New Guinea, 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