Drum with monitor-skin membrane. [DCF Court Team 11/2/2003]
Place details: OCEANIA MELANESIA. Papua New Guinea. Gulf of Papua. Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Wood Plant / Lizard Skin Reptile / Pigment / ?. Processes: Carved / Hollowed / Stretched / Decorated / Painted / ?. Colour: white red Dimensions: Max L = 725 mm Diam of head = 150 mm Field Collector: Unknown When Collected: By 1902 PRM Source: Stevens Auction Rooms Acquired: Purchased August 1902 PRM Image: F. 89
KEYWORD: Musical Instrument / Figure / CLASS: Music / Figure / ?.MUSIC CLASS: 2. MUSIC NAME: Single membrane hourglasss drum.
Accession Book Entry - Stevens Auction Rooms - Aug 19 (sale) - [1 of] 5 carved drums with monitor-skin membrane, New Guinea (Papuan Gulf district) (lots 44 and 200) 29/- ... total 4-2-0 PR petty cash account
Card Catalogue Entry - BRITISH NEW GUINEA, PAPUAN GULF DISTRICT Carved drum with monitor skin membrane. Carving representing stylized human figures, white background handle at waist with carving. Painted red cross on membrane. Purch. from Stevens (Lots 44 and 200) Aug. 1902.
Other information - This object was physically numbered by [DCF Court Team 11/2/2003]
Publications history, trails & websites: This object features in the Museum's audio tour produced in 2010. Transcription as follows: “Hour-glass shaped drums such as these with a central handle are widely distributed across Papua New Guinea and some neighbouring countries. They are played by men – held horizontally in one hand and played using the other – and are used in dances and celebrations rather than in warfare.
The membrane is made from the skin of a monitor lizard which is pulled taut over the drum when freshly cut so that it shrinks to fit as it dries. Small pellets of wax stuck to the membrane help maintain tension and pitch, and the wax is warmed and adjusted to tune the instrument every time it is played.
Drums like this are quite widely traded or sold beyond their places of manufacture – those collected in the Torres Strait (which is, politically, part of Australia), will have been made in the Papuan Gulf to the north, and acquired by Torres Strait islanders through exchange.
The decoration, sound, and handling of the drums may all have symbolic dimensions. The incised patterns on the Papuan Gulf drums shown here represent faces of spirit beings thought to live in the bush or water. The end of the drum represents an open mouth through which these spirits can be heard when the drum is beaten. In parts of the New Guinea Highlands, magical substances may be buried along paths or roads. These, along with the sound of drums, are thought to excite girls who may be stimulated to seize a male dancer’s drum as an invitation to courtship.” (written by Helen Hales) [HH 25/10/2010]