ITEM 12827

Shield, kanta

Toraja and Pamona People,
Southern and central Sulawesi
19th century
Wood, nasa shell, bone, goat hair
42 in / 107 cm

Ex collections: Lt Gen. J.B. van Heutsz, Amsterdam; Loed & Mia van Bussel, Amsterdam; Kenneth Dalke, Scotts Valley, CA

This is an extremely fine example of a shield used by more than one ethnic group living in the vicinity Lake Poso, central Sulawesi. The inhabitants are frequently called Toraja by outsiders, a name derived from the coastal Buginese word for “highlander.” A kanta features tall and narrow architecture with a slightly flaring waist and is covered with goat hair. It may be observed that the custom of inserting hair plugs has affinities with many Dayak shields, save that the latter sport human hair taken from fallen enemies. This prompts the question as to whether there was a time in history when kanta shields displayed human hair rather than goat. Headhunting was certainly endemic to the culture during the millennia-long pre-Christian era, and the Dayak culture on nearby Borneo shares a common heritage, so this is quite likely.