Smithsonian Collections

Slit gong

Image for Slit gong
Data Source
National Museum of African Art
Label Text
Ownership of elaborately carved slit gongs was widespread among chiefs in north central Congo and southern Central African Republic. This monumental slit gong in the form of an animal, perhaps a bushcow, is carved from a single piece of wood.
A slit gong is an idiophone, a wooden drum without a drumhead. It is formed by hollowing out a log through a long narrow opening. One edge of the opening is thicker and emits a low tone when struck, while the thinner side gives a high tone. Slit gongs are played with sticks, the ends of which are sometimes covered with rubber. Because slit gongs can mimic the tones of human speech, they are used to transmit messages over long distances. They are also used to play music.
This gong was probably part of an orchestra composed of slit gongs of different sizes, each of which made different tones.
Description
Wood slit gong carved as a bushcow, composed of a narrow tapered head with a slender raised nose, round ears and short curved horns on a long neck, the large ovoid body with carved border of zigzags, on four curved rectangular legs, with long tapered tail. There is a shallow horizontal crack to the right foreleg, some minor abrasions and a glossy patina.
Provenance
Collected by a Belgian army officer, before 1909
Private collection, Belgium, ca. 1909 to 1982
Patrick Dierickx, Brussels, 1982 to 1992
Exhibition History
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
Artful Animals, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., July 1, 2009-July 25, 2010
BIG/small, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., January 17-July 23, 2006
America's Smithsonian: Celebrating 150 Years, organized by The Smithsonian, Los Angeles Convention Center, February 9-March 10, 1996; Kansas City Convention Center, April 10-May 19, 1996; Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, August 21-September 19, 1996; St. Paul Civic Center, October 16-November 14, 1996, Houston, Texas, December 6, 1996- January 28, 1997, Portland Oregon, April 3 - May 6, 1997, Birmingham, Alabama, May 29-July 9, 1997, San Jose, California, July 31- August 25,1997
Published References
Arts d'Afrique noire. 1982. Arnouville, vol. 41, pp. 28-29.
Christie's. 1992. Auction catalogue (June 23). London, no. 96.
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, p. 234, pl. 127.
National Museum of African Art. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 143, no. 103.
National Museum of African Art. 2006. BIG/small Family Guide. Exhibition booklet. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Smithsonian Institution. 1996. America's Smithsonian: Celebrating 150 Years. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 84-85.
Maker
Yangere artist
Lobala artist
Date
Late 19th-early 20th century
Credit Line
Purchased with funds provided by the Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and museum purchase
Medium
Wood
Dimensions
H x W x D: 63.5 x 248 x 47 cm (25 x 97 5/8 x 18 1/2 in.)
Type
Musical Instrument
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Object number
92-12-1
Topic
bushcow
Male use
Geography
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Central African Republic