Antique Zulu-Nguni Hide Shield – Ihawu – South Africa
19th century. Cowhide cm. 56,5 x cm. 41,0 (22.24″ x 16.14″).
A Nguni shield is a traditional, pointed oval-shaped, ox or cowhide shield which is used by various ethnic groups among the Nguni people of southern Africa. A cow-hide shield is known as isihlangu, ihawu or ingubha in Zulu, and ikhaka or ikhawu in Xhosa.
Strictly speaking these native names denote shields of different application, and additional types are known by other names. War shields were traditionally stockpiled by a chief or king, to whom they belonged, while a smaller shield was reserved for his subordinates’ personal daily use, or as a complement at their dancing ceremonies.
True Nguni shields are made of raw cattle hide, as the esteemed Sanga-Nguni cattle lend distinction to the shields, which are more than mere commodities for physical protection.
The ihawu is a small to medium-sized shield used at dances.
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