Beer Label Fighting Shields

On left: vintage can of South Pacific Export Lager; on right artist/sign-painter, Kaipel Ka next to to one of his painted wooden shields.

When one thinks of heraldry, images of the lion and the unicorn most often spring to mind. In Papua New Guinea, however, beer labels are featured on shields used as protection in battle. Fighting shields had not been used in 50 years but when war broke out between groups in the 1980's there was a need for them once more.  Artist Kaipel Ka uses beer advertising designs on shields he makes for various warring groups. The emblems act like the team colors of sporting groups.
Kaipel’s own explanation of his use of the SP design was that he had been asked by senior men to incorporate a representation of a beer bottle on the shield, to make the point that “it was beer alone which had precipitated this fighting”. (The war followed the breakdown of negotiations for compensation after an inebriated Senglap [clan] man had fallen from a Dange [clan]-owned vehicle.) Rather than including a picture of a beer bottle, Kaipel decided instead to make the point by using the SP design as a whole.


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