Slit drum (Garamut) with drum stick

Production date
Pre 1990
Papua New Guinea
East Sepik
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Object detail

Wooden slit drum (Garamut) with drum stick. Human figure finials on drum and handle of drum stick. Incised geometric and curvilinear designs on drum body.
INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander drum
Production date
Pre 1990
Drum: L 440 x W 75 x D 85 mm
Drum stick: L 270 x W 20 mm
History and use
Slit drums (garamut) are one of the most important instruments in the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea. Slit drums are associated with men’s business and kept in men’s ritual houses for ceremonial events. In certain areas, there are taboos put in place to prevent women from playing or seeing the drums, however in others, they are relatively visible and public objects.

Both the drum and the drum stick are decorated with human figures, who represent ancestors. The long hooked noses of the figures and the tiered head-dresses are characteristic elements of Sepik carving. Each clan or region would have slightly varying designs for the ancestor figures.

Seen as more than just an instrument, garamut are used to announce meetings and warnings and communicate with both individuals and neighbouring villages. They would also convey messages of life, death and even voice mythical stories to the community.

This object was collected by donor Peter Watt in 1990 and donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2012.
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