Smithsonian Collections

Drum

Image for Drum
Data Source
National Museum of African Art
Label Text
African musical instruments are as varied as the continent’s rich, diverse and dynamic musical traditions. Specially made musical instruments are works of art, fashioned by master artists and appreciated by the patrons that commission them and the audiences that enjoy their performance. Drums are among the more highly decorated instruments in Africa, with the body of drums serving as a worthy surface for a range of abstract and representational motifs. Perhaps because the columnar form of drums suggests the human body, decorative embellishments sometimes include incised or low-relief carved heads, facial features, limbs and linear patterns reminiscent of body scarification designs. This is certainly the case with this Luba drum, whose compact shape and ornamental flourishes suggest a highly abstracted Janus-faced human head. Radiating elliptical patterns heightened in white pigment on both sides of the drum define the eyes and reflect a similar eye treatment found in Luba and Songye face masks. Protruding vertical panels evoke the nose and ears. Monitor lizard skin is tightly stretched over the drum heads.
This drum was part of the very popular touring exhibition “Sounding Forms: African Musical Instruments,” which was hosted by the National Museum of African Art in 1989. While a 1951 publication by Olga Boone identified a similar drum as from the Kikondja chiefdom of the upper Lomami River, she does not specify an ethnic group; she may have been referring to the region of Kinkondja, which Marc Leo Felix identifies as a principle Luba town in the Lake Upemba region, much further to the south. In addition, the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart attributes a related drum to the nearby Tabwa, all suggesting the dynamic history of economic and social interaction in this region of central Africa.
Description
Compact, ovoid wood drum with drum heads on either end covered with reptile skin, possibly that of the monitor lizard. The drum is carved in the shape of a highly abstracted Janus-faced human head. On either side, it is ornamented with curvilinear and elliptical surface patterns accented with white pigment that define the ‘eyes,’ while vertical panels suggest the nose and ears. Horizontal bands evoke the forehead and jaw.
Provenance
Schoffel, -- to 1984
Merton D. Simpson, 1984 to 2013
Exhibition History
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue - From the Collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr., National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, November 7, 2014-January 24, 2016
Sounding Forms: African Musical Instruments, National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C., April 23-June 18, 1989; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, July 16-September 10, 1989; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, October 7-December 3, 1989; Musée des Arts Africains et Océaniens, Paris, January 25-March 20, 1990
Published References
Brincard, Marie-Thérèse (ed). 1989. Sounding Forms: African Musical Instruments. New York: The American Federation of Arts, pp. 110-111, no. 42.
Kreamer, Christine Mullen and Adrienne L. Childs (eds). 2014. Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue from the Collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 225, 237, no. 105, pl. 131.
Maker
Luba artist
Date
Late 19th to early 20th century
Credit Line
Museum purchase
Medium
Wood, reptile skin, pigment
Dimensions
H x W x D: 40.3 x 33 x 30.5 cm (15 7/8 x 13 x 12 in.)
Type
Musical Instrument
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Exhibition
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts
On View
NMAfA, Second Level Gallery (2193)
Object number
2013-6-1
Topic
Status
Male use
Janus-faced
Geography
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo