A truly spectacular 1879 period regimental war-shield with a striking spotted face - a colour associated with the uKhandempemvu regiment also known as the uMcijo ibutho which was heavily involved in the war of 1879, and greatly distinguished itself at the battle of iSandlwana. 53 x 28 inches, very good condition with very little hair loss (NB; shield stick is not original). There is an interesting mark suggestive of battle damage; most stab marks in antique Zulu shields actually represent the wounds where the animal was slaughtered; this stab-mark appears to have been inflicted when the hide was dry (i.e. after the shield was made).
Background: It’s well-known that the amabutho – regiments - of the great Zulu kings carried war-shields in distinctive patterns, but it is less well-known how the system worked. These shields were not the property of individuals but rather of the state – they were cut from the hides of cattle in the national herds and stored in the great royal homesteads which served as regimental barracks; the warriors would muster here when they were assembled, and the shields would be issued to them for duty, to be returned after use. The great royal herds were sorted according to the colour of the animals’ hides so that matched herds could allocated to each ibutho for shields. Two shields – either the great isihlangu or the slightly smaller umbhumbulozu - were cut from each hide, one from either side, avoiding the shaggy hair down the ridge of the animal’s back. Read on about Zulu Regimental Shields, plus more background pictures here.