A Superb Old Vanuatu Slit Gong Drum Ambrym Island in Vanuatu
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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. Several 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, initiation rites, festivals, and pig sacrifices, 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
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