Songye Warrior Shield. Wood. Woven edge. Congolacerta Lizard. Congo. DRC
Songye and Luba origins are shared and can be traced through lineages from the 16th Century. It is believed that the founders of the Songye emerged from the lake region in the Shaba / Katanga province in the southeast part of the Congo with the Lomami River separating them from the Luba. Waging war against each other went on for generation after generation.
Traditionally, the Songye relied on farming and hunting for survival. Fishing was not done because the rivers were associated with the spirits of deceased chiefs and warriors.
Most of their artwork can be described as intensely dynamic and full of vitality. There are many statues and masks on my site but this is the only shield I was able to acquire.
Most of the shields created up to the end of the Colonial period (circa 1960s) were used in conflicts. Since then most are made to honor spirits . . . whether to honor a warrior ancestor or to pay homage to a more anthropomorphic entity.
Enter the Congolacerta lizard. (Congo + Licerta [lizard]).
“The lizard runs so fast that it overtakes its own den”
The Songye view these reptiles as wise and silent and are frequently portrayed in their role as trusted messengers to the “other” world in feast days, ritual dances and conflict re-enactments.
This particular shield came from a long time collector of Belgium Congo art and weapons which could put this shield back in the 1940 – 1950s. . . with the collector’s acquisition in the late 1950s.
Carved out of a single piece of wood with a carved-out grip on the back, this item is rare because of its condition and potential age.
A rare find for a Serious Collector.