Lotuko shield

Lotuko shield
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Eastern Equatoria Navera
Cultural Group:
Lotuko [Otuho]
Date Made:
By 1933
Buffalo Cattle Skin Animal , Wood Plant , Animal Hide Skin , Grass Fibre Plant
Carved , Perforated Stitched , Decorated Impressed , Bound , Twisted Tied Plaited , Repaired (local)
Body L = 1410, W = 380 (top), 415 (base), th = 8.2 mm; pole L = 1255, W = 14, th = 13.7; grass fibre loop diam = 2.5, L = 360; hide loop diam = 71, W = 11.7, th = 5 mm [RTS 26/8/2005].
> 1000 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife on 6th April 1933 during a shooting expedition
Field Collector:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton & Hannah Powell-Cotton (nee Brayton)
PRM Source:
Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton
Donated 1934
Collected Date:
6th April 1933
Large body-sized shield made from a piece of thick buffalo hide with a yellowish brown exterior (Pantone 7509C) and reddish brown interior (Pantone 476C). This has been cut out to form a tall, narrow body with a pointed top and convex sides that curve in to a slight waist at the centre, before turning out to a forked fishtail shaped base. The surface undulates along its length, with the central area swelling outwards most markedly, providing a hollow for a hand grip on the underside. A narrow vertical slit has been cut into the centre of the top, to allow the user of the shield to look ahead, and a rounded rib runs down the centre of the exterior, flanked by 11 pairs of hide stitches that keep the support pole in place on the other side. This pole has been carved from a straight piece of brown wood (Pantone 4695C), with the top cut off at an angle and the base shaved to a point, and forms a handle at the centre of the shield where the hide body swells outwards. The thongs used for the stitching still have animal hair present on the surface. The pole has been further strengthened with 3 strips running down its length, and then further binding around these. There is additional binding around the handle grip, using hide strips with a reddish brown surface (Pantone 476C). A length of twisted 2-ply yellow grass fibre cord has been tied into a loop near the top of the shied, probably for suspension (Pantone 7510C); there is also a smaller hide loop made from 2 perforated lengths plaited together in a herringbone pattern near the base. The outer face of the shield has been decorated with a series of parallel rectangular impressions running in rows down the body and covering the entire space, although some are only faintly visible. The shield is complete, but has local mends at 2 places down the body, using narrow hide thong stitching. There are also numerous cut marks across the surface. It has a weight in excess of 1000 grams. The body is 1410 mm long, 380 mm wide at the top and 415 mm wide at the base, with a thickness of 8.2 mm; the pole is 1255 mm long, 14 mm wide and 13.7 mm thick; the grass fibre loop is 360 mm long, with a diameter of 2.4 mm, and the hide loop is 71 mm in diameter, with the component strip being 11.7 mm wide and 5 mm thick.

Collected by Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton and his wife Hannah at Navera on 6th April 1933, during a shooting expedition. This type of shield is known as
nabuku; the loop is said to be for ‘hanging upside down’.

An early account of the Lotuko was recorded by Samuel White Baker, which describes their shields as: "generally made of buffalo hide, but the best are formed from the skin of the giraffe, this combining the two qualities of lightness and toughness" (J.G. Wood, 1868, Natural History of Man volume I, p. 506). A later account describes their shields as usually of buffalo hide, bleached white (F.R.R. Somerset 1918, "The Lotuko", Sudan Notes and Records 1 , p. 153). A photograph taken by Powell-Cotton at Losito of a Lotuko warrior holding this type of shield is published by Spring (C. Spring, 1993, African Arms and Armour, fig. 115). This shield is designed to be large enough to cover the owner's body, with the slit at the top allowing forward vision; it is often adorned with a ball of ostrich feathers at the base (Spring, op. cit., p. 121; J. Mack, fig. 2 and pl. II, another Powell-Cotton photograph).

Rachael Sparks 24/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 248] 1934 [insert] 8 [end insert] - MAJOR P. H. G. POWELL-COTTON , Quex Park, Birchington, E. Kent. Specimens collected by himself & Mrs Cotton, during hunting trips, 1933, viz: [...] [p. 252] - From the LATUKA tribe, NAVERA, TORIT, LARONYO. [p. 254, insert] 61 [end insert] - Long shield, nabuku , of buffalo-hide, with stiffening-rod forming the grip. Upper end slit longitudinally, ib[idem] [NAVERA] (439).

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 1/6/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, SUDAN, LOTUKU. Buffalo hide shield. Don. Major Powell-Cotton. 1934.8.61 [plastic coated label with metal eyelet, tied to object; RTS 25/8/2005].

Written on object - Shield, nabuku , of buffalo-hide. LATUKA, NAVERA, E. SUDAN. 4 30' N., 32 30' E. d.d. Major Powell-Cotton, 1934 [RTS 25/8/2005].

Related Documents File - Typewritten List of "Curios Presented to Dr. Balfour by Major & Mrs. Powell-Cotton. Tribe Latuka". This object appears as item 439: "Shield, buffalo hide, 4'11" long, 17" across, slit length 9", ring for hanging upside down, Nabooku , 6/4/33 Navera, about 4.30 N 32.30 E”. Also contains details of a cine film 'some tribes of the Southern Sudan', taken by Powell-Cotton during this 1933 expedition, copies of which are now in the National Film and Television Archive and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent [RTS 14/3/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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