1954.4.34

Cylindrical pedestal drum

Place details: OCEANIA POLYNESIA. French Polynesia (Overseas Collectivity of France) / Tubuai Islands, Ra'ivavae. Local Name: fahu Materials: Wood Plant / Fish Skin / Sennit Coconut Fibre Plant / ?. Processes: Carved / Hollowed / Twisted / ?. Dimensions: Max H = 1346 mm Max Diam = 200 mm Field Collector: ?Lord Lytton [Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton?] When Collected: By 1849 Other Owners: By 1849, Lord Lytton [possibly Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton]; from 1849, left at Royal United Services Institution [RUSI]; circa 1881, presented by Alexander Malet to the RUSI; 10 October 1929, purchased from RUSI by Harry Geoffrey Beasley, Cranmore Museum PRM Source: Irene Marguerite Beasley Acquired: Donated April 1954 Other Numbers: 2441

KEYWORD: Musical instrument / Religious Object / Cylindrical Drum / CLASS: Music / Religion / Carving / Ceremonial / ?.MUSIC CLASS: 2. MUSIC NAME: Cylindrical pedestal drum.

Publications history, trails & websites: Listed as number 161 and illustrated in colour on page 200 of Pacific Encounters: Art & Divinity in Polynesia, 1760-1860, by Steven Hooper (London: British Museum Press / Wellington, New Zealand: Te Papa Press, 2006); caption (same page) reads: '161 Tall drum | Austral Islands, Ra'ivavae | Late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries | Wood, coir, fish skin | H. 134.6 cm | Oxford, PRM: 1954.4.34 | Donated 1954 by Irene Beasley; ex. collection Harry Beasley, no. 2441, purchased 10 October 1929 from the Royal United Services Institution Museum, London, no. 2954; presented 1881 to the RUSI by Sir Alexander Malet, originally owned by Lord Lytton. A finely preserved example of a tall drum with twelve cleats around the waist, one a modern replacement. The base is carved in distinctive openwork Ra'ivavae style, with eight horizontal rows of linked figures separated by seven bands of crescents. Such drums were probably used locally and also exported to the Society Islands. Drums were beaten as accompaniment to religious activities at temple precincts, signalling the presence of divine powers and marking tapu time periods. As the "voice" of the gods, they could also be regarded as a form of god image.' Also listed and illustrated, with the same number on the same page and with the same details, in the French edition of the catalogue: Polynésie: Arts et Divinités, 1760-1860, by Steven Hooper (Paris: Musée de quai Branly and Réunion des musées nationaux, 2008). [JC 22 12 2006, 10 7 2008]

Illustrated in colour as Figure I on page 118 of The Austral Islands: History, Art and Art History, by Rhys Richards (Paremata: Paremata Press, 2012). Caption (same page) reads: 'Tall drum from Ra'ivavae with twelve cleats. Wood, sennit fibre, and shark skin membrane. Local name said to be from [sic] "fahu". Height 136cm, diameter 15cm. Pitt Rivers Museum. Item number 194.4.34 [sic]. Drums were beaten at religious ceremonies, attracting divine powers. They have also been called the "voice of the gods." [JC 21 6 2012]

Research notes: According to an email received from Les Jessop in early January 2002, Hermione Waterfield has discovered more information about the history of the drum in Harry Beasley's ledgers. According to an entry there, apparently, the drum had been left at the Royal Services Institution by Lord Lytton since 1849. It is also recorded there that the indigenous name for the drum is pahu hula, and that Beasley paid £20 for it on 10 October 1929; printout of email correspondence in RDF. [JC 8 1 2002]