In the past, African shields were designed to offer protection during combat. Small, lightweight shields offered greater mobility for close combat, and large, heavier ones provided more protection during ground battles. The patterns and designs on the shield indicated the person’s rank and status on the battlefield, as well as the ethnic group he belonged to.
Shields were also used as accessories in initiation, funeral, and dance ceremonies. A variety of materials were used like animal hides which provided strength and durability; wicker, a lightweight material used for weaving; wood which was sculpted into smooth shapes and carved with designs, and metal. Pity these glorious shields can’t protect us from the relentless sounds of the vuvuzelas.