Object: Drum

Africa: Drum
20th Century
Materials: wood, antelope skin

This object is an African drum similar to those found in the areas surrounding Lake Victoria. This drum has a body of wood, traditionally treated to prevent wood-boring insects, with a head on each end made of antelope hide. Strips of antelope hide are also used to lace the drum heads together. These drums can be played with the hands or with a stick or mallet, and can vary greatly in size.

Drums are an important part of the spiritual and everyday life of many African tribes. Healing rituals use drums to induce a trance and entice spirits to enter into the bodies of those dancing to the music. Inside the drum shown above is a charm, which is known only to the creator of the drum, potentially signifying this drum’s sacred role. As a communication tool, drums can be made to imitate the rhythmic and tonal pattern of speech. This “talking drum” is more prevalent on the western coast of Africa, and can be used to communicate long distances. Drums also play a large role in festivals and rituals–like the birth of twins or the installation of a king.

[Daniel Gonzalez]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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