Nguni Shield – Zulu Traditional Cowhide Shield

Nguni Shield – Zulu Traditional Cowhide Shield


Time Period: 1940s

Origin:  South Africa

Materials: Nguni Cow hide, Sheepskin, Wood

Provenance:  USA Market, Private Collector

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Nguni Shield: A Brief History

Zulu shields were originally used as personal armor protection during battle by Nguni tribes in southern Africa. The shields used before or early 19th century were generally small in size. The color variation were specifically chosen by the king. King Shaka Zulu introduced the larger shields which protected the warriors’ entire body as depicted below.  He also equipped his warriors with another famous invention: a short stabbing spear known as iklwa.  Together with new military tactics employed during battle such as the Cow Horn Formation, made the Zulu impi a formidable force to be reckoned with.

From Zulu-Boer wars 1838 (Battle of Blood River), Zulu shields have played a key role as armor through 1878. Today, the Zulu shield has powerful symbolic meaning and representations. The Zulu shield is often used as military insignia to symbolize military prowess, on political party flags to represent political strength,  and much more.9 Anglo-Zulu wars (battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift). This essentially denotes power, law and justice. After the wars to the present day, Zulu shields found yet another important useful function in traditional ceremonies such as Weddings, Funerals and Festive Dance ceremonies.

Types of Nguni Traditional Shields

Ihlangu* Bumbuluzo** Igqoka*** Ihubelo Ihawu
Large Battle Shield Medium Size Battle Shield Small Shield for Courting Small Shield for Dancing Medium Personal Protection Shield

Nguni Shield Description

This rare beautiful piece is undoubtedly a well crafted shield. One of the best Zulu shields we have ever come across.

The measurements of this cowhide shield display 69″ x 22″ x 4″

Shield Condition

The shield  is in very good condition considering its age. The center wooden shaft (umboko) has a minor repair. Please review pictures for a more complete representation of the condition. Contact us if you have any questions.



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