Bamboo flute with flute stopper. Flute stopper depicts a carved human figure playing a flute, with red, white and yellow painted geometric and curvilinear designs and inset cowrie shell eyes. Flute has plant fibre wrapped tightly around both ends, positioned with resin.
INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander flute
L 675 x W 65 x D 60 mm
Wooden stopper, bamboo flute, cowrie shells inset as eyes, plant fiber wrapped as decoration with resin on flute ends.
History and use
Objects such as this flute act as a temporary home, or physical manifestation of the spirits, and are used during initiation ceremonies; the flute stoppers prevent the evil spirits from coming into contact with the spirits of the ancestors. The flutes were always played in pairs, creating a two-tone melody. The sound of the flutes was the ‘voice’ of the spirits, and the objects were played in ceremonies to display the power of the spirits to uninitiated peoples such as women and children.
The flute itself is a simple bamboo tube, but the elaborately decorated flute stopper is adorned with a stylized human figure, carved with a small body and large dome shaped head. The human figurines used in Sepik style carving, seen on the flute stopper, are depictions of clan totems and ancestral figures.
This object was collected by donor Peter Watt in 1990 and donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2012.