111.243 Slit drums

Vertical free-standing slit drum, carved in the classic anthropomorphic Ambrym style.

Slit Drum, Atingting Kon, Ambrym island, Vanuatu, Eastern Melanesia The slit drums (atingting kon) of northern Ambrym in central Vanuatu are the largest of Oceania's musical instruments, and accomplished sculptures in wood. Although similar drums are also carved on neighbouring Malakula, the Ambrymese style has become dominant, alongside many other elements of Ambrymese artistry. Such drums in human form have become a potent and easily recognised symbol of ni-Vanuatu national identity. Their vertical orientation is unique among Pacific slit drums, and these drums are set up in visually striking rows on the Ambrymese dancing ground (ranhara). The slit drum is played on the right lip with one or two short mallets. Each drum is subtly different, and the designs are purchased (like copyrights) from their existing owners by carvers who hope to create them. The price of such designs includes both the right to carve the object yourself, and to sell the design on to other carvers. In general, such prices were measured and paid in the traditional currency of pigs. Wood. Mid-20th Century. Purchased at Christie’s Auction House 24 June 1996.

Collection Information

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