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Arts of the Pacific Islands

The lower portion of this drum is decorated with relief carvings of spirals and concentric arcs that were originally painted white and red. The large face, with its projecting tongue, is meant to be threatening, indicating the power of the clan that owned it. Above and below the face are two cassowary birds.

This drum is closely related to three other published examples, which all may be by the same artist. All were collected at the beginning of the twentieth century. The design is reportedly that of a Chambri drum captured by the Iatmul people and then used to celebrate their victory. This type of drum, which originally had a membrane covering the top, provides accompaniment for clan songs on ceremonial occasions such as funerals, the launching of new canoes, or the completion of a clan house.
MEDIUM Wood, shell, pigment
DATES early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 26 1/4 x 7 1/2 x 9 in. (66.7 x 19.1 x 22.9 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Marcia and John Friede and Mrs. Melville W. Hall
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Wood drum in form of a hollow hourglass. Upper third, plain; remaining section carved with fine decoration including swirls and borders of zigzag patterns. Front, central concave area has face in high relief. Face has cylindrical eyes with shell insets, elongated nose, and broad mouth. Mouth has a long tongue hanging down under upturned outward-pointing tail feathers of a symmetrical bird. Head of a second bird begins above face with upturned tail feathers extending out over forehead to bridge of nose between eyes. Overall surface is rough and black; crevices are filled with white and light orange pigment. From catalogue card: Wooden drum. Hollow hourglass form with finely carved embellishment on lower 2/3 of exterior surface. In high relief, a concave face terminates at each end by a bird, with shell eyes. S-volute design pattern delimited by zigzag border at bottom. White and light orange pigment fills crevices and contrasts with rough, blackened surface. Condition: Thin longitudinal crack below proper left eye; another crack on proper left side; two more, very small, from bottom in back. Large and small cracks from bottom upward on proper right side. Sections chipped off of both eyes and another chip lower proper left eye. Abrasions around entire rim.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Iatmul. Drum, early 20th century. Wood, shell, pigment, 26 1/4 x 7 1/2 x 9 in. (66.7 x 19.1 x 22.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Marcia and John Friede and Mrs. Melville W. Hall, 87.218.70a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 87.218.70_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 87.218.70_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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