Oceania, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River region, ca. mid 20th century CE. A massive, hand-carved wooden drum with a long body carved from a felled tree and extensively embellished with bas relief decoration and high relief/openwork projections at either end of the drum - one depicting a monkey holding onto the drum with hands and feet and facing a crocodile-like visage, the other side with the head of a stylized ancestral figure presenting a distinctive hooked nose and wearing an elaborate, tiered headdress found on many human representations of the Sepik region with a monkey head above. The body of the drum is adorned with a slithering serpent and various human visages and lizard-like forms. This is a slit drum, a form known as a garamut, the most important instrument in the Sepik River area. Such drums are used in ceremonies, to issue warnings, and to call people to meetings. Recently you may have noticed an animated one in the Disney movie "Moana" (look at the start of the "We Know the Way" scene). Size: 78.5" L x 13.5" W x 14.5" H (199.4 cm x 34.3 cm x 36.8 cm)
See a Garumut drum at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (object number 93.12). The curatorial description includes this wonderful contextual passage about the ancestral figures depicted on the drum as well as the sound made by the drum capturing its voice: "These figures represent important ancestors and demonstrate clan affiliation. The people of the Sepik area understand the drum's sound as its "voice." This voice can carry long distances to announce meetings, call individuals, issue warnings, and even contact neighboring villages. Communication occurs through a complex series of rhythms and tones beat out with a wooden stick by an initiated man. More than just an instrument, this drum is central to the lives the entire community."
Note: See photos for a similar drum displayed in the collection of the Quay Branly Museum in Paris, France.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex Mickeler Collection, Paris, France
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Expected age cracks, abraded areas, and weathering to surface commensurate with age, but the drum is very stable and in no danger of breaking apart. There are remnants of white pigment on the serpent body. Losses to protruding elements surrounding monkey head and ancestor head one one end of the drum as shown. Rich patina on surface with light deposits.