Wooden shield for dancing (ndome)


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Warriors in East Africa had many forms of decorations on their shields that conveyed a number of meanings: age, geographical location, lineage, military affinities and prowess. This type of 'heraldry' was undoubtedly more intricate and significant before the enforced migrations, resettlements and military restrictions of the colonial period.In addition to shields used in battle, the Kikuyu also made shields for dancing, called ndome. They are carved out of a single piece of wood with a hole for the arm instead of a hand grip, and were worn on the upper left arm by boys prior to their initiation as junior warriors. Each year the boys of a particular territorial unit would choose a design which they later used for their war shields once they had achieved warrior status.Shields of this type became family heirlooms, though the designs might be scraped off and repainted many times as each new generation of boys prepared for their initiation.


  • Title: Wooden shield for dancing (ndome)
  • Date Created: 1850/1899
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 65.00cm; Width: 42.00cm; Depth: 10.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: pigmented
  • Registration number: Af1904,1101.1
  • Production place: Made in Kenya
  • Place: Found/Acquired Kenya
  • Peoples: Made by Kikuyu
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: wood; fibre
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Hinde, Hildegarde Beatrice

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