A Superb Old Vanuatu Slit Gong Drum Ambrym Island in Vanuatu
A Superb Old Vanuatu Monumental Slit Gong Drum From Ambrym Island in Vanuatu
This beautiful monumental Slit Gong Drum Sculpture is from Ambrym Island in Vanuatu. This Drum was exhibited in 2014 ( see the photos above with orange background) Exhibited & Published in Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from The Todd Barlin Collection at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Sydney 2014. Published in the exhibition catalogue on page 75.
The towering slit gongs of northern Vanuatu are among the largest freestanding musical instruments on earth. Found primarily on Ambrym Island, Malekula, and neighbouring islands, they are carved from the trunks of large breadfruit trees, hollowed out to create a resonating chamber with a narrow slit-shaped aperture. The edges of the slit are struck with club-like wood beaters, producing deep, sonorous tones. A number of gongs, constituting an informal orchestra, stand on the village’s dancing ground. These gong orchestras are played at major social and ceremonial occasions such as initiations, dances, and funerals. Through carefully coordinated actions, the drummers in the gong ensemble produce rhythms of immense variety and complexity.
Slit gongs are, or were, also used to communicate between villages. Under proper atmospheric conditions, their sound can carry for miles through the forest and, in rare instances, across the water to neighbouring islands. A series of gong languages composed of beats and pauses enables highly specific messages to be sent. This slit gong Drum is from the village of Fanla on Ambrym Island. The gong is made in the form of two stylised ancestor figures. Small arms and spirals depicting sacred pig tusks appear below the face of the bottom ancestor figure. The heads are carved with projections representing hair. The long vertical slit represents the mouth, through which the ancestor’s “voice” emerges as sound whenever the gong is played.
Most of Vanuatu’s cultures have complex men’s secret societies, which involve a series of ritual “grades” through which individuals pass, by means of initiation rites, festivals, and pig sacrifices, in order to achieve increasing religious and social status. Special ritual objects were made & used for these secret men’s societies.
Provenance: From the collection of the late David Baker (1943-2009 ) who was the president of The Oceanic Arts Society of Australia and was a great collector, expert & supporter of Oceanic Art & Cultures.
Exhibited & Published in Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from The Todd Barlin Collection at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Sydney 2016. Published in the exhibition catalogue page 75
The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Art and Oceanic Art and Asian Art
The field photo above was taken in Fanla Village in North Ambrym Island in the late 1980s where I stayed with a very nice family for 2 weeks.
I first went to Papua New Guinea in 1985 for an adventure & what I found was that I really enjoyed being with the people of New Guinea, over the next 38 years I spent extensive time spent collecting and documenting traditional art & ceremonies in remote areas of Papua New Guinea & West Papua, The Solomon Islands & Vanuatu & the other Pacific Islands countries. During these travels, I made major collections of New Guinea & Oceanic Art for major Museums and Public Art Galleries
I was honoured by being in the prestigious Louvre Museum Magazine for the collections I made for The Museum of African & Oceanic Art Paris in1996 (now the Musee Quai Branly) for the exhibition “Asmat et Mimika d’ Irian Jaya April 1996 At THE MUSEE NATIONAL des ARTS D’AFRIQUE et d’ OCEANIE, Paris
See all of the links & photos in my new EXHIBITIONS GALLERY and there is the link to the article in the prestigious Louvre Magazine 1996
I have artwork for Museums & Art Galleries but also for collectors at every stage of their collecting. I want to encourage people to explore the fine art of New Guinea & West Papua and the Pacific Islands and to be able to see and touch the artworks in a relaxed and friendly manner in my Sydney Gallery. I would like to invite you to visit my gallery and see the artworks in person and also look at my website www.oceanicartsaustralia.com where there are many Galleries & Sub Galleries to explore.
My Gallery of nearly 40 years is the last physical gallery in Sydney that specialises in New Guinea & Oceanic Art. Sydney is just a couple hours’ flight to New Guinea & the Pacific Islands where all of these amazing artworks came from, Australia’s closest neighbours.
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