Shield, early to mid–20th century
Wunambal people, western Kimberley Region, Western Australia
Wood, paint; H. 33 in. (83.8 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1960 (1978.412.757)
Adorned with images that were first engraved into its surface and then brightly painted, this shield from the western Kimberley Region in Australia depicts a humanlike figure representing a Wandjina above a turtle. Perhaps the most important supernatural beings in the region, Wandjinas are associated with the clouds that signal the arrival of the annual rainy season. Wandjinas can manifest themselves both in the form of humanlike beings, such as the one seen here, and as clouds, and their images often combine aspects of the two. The halolike motif that surrounds the head simultaneously represents a cloud and the figure's hair and the bodies of Wandjinas are typically painted a cloudlike white. Wandjina images appear most frequently in the region's rock art, but also occasionally on portable objects such as the present work.