The towering slit gongs of northern Vanuatu are among the largest musical instruments in the world. Found primarily on Ambrym, Malekula, and neighboring islands, they are carved from the trunks of breadfruit trees, which are also an important food source. In each village, a number of gongs, comprising a sort of informal orchestra, stand on the village dancing ground. Gong orchestras are played at major social and religious events such as initiations, funerals, and dances. When playing, the musician stands in front of the gong and strikes the lip of the slit with a clublike wooden beater. As the gong ensemble is played, rhythms of immense variety and complexity can be produced by the carefully coordinated actions of multiple drummers.
[Staempfli Gallery, New York, until 1975]
Speiser, F. Die Kleinwüchsigen Asiens (Andamanen, Malacca, Philippinen, Wedda) und Beschreibung einzelner Inselgruppen Melanesiens [The Pygmy People of Asia in the Andamans, Malacca, the Philippines and Vedda, as well as a description of some Melanesian Island Groups. Basel, Switzerland, 1930.
Deacon, Bernard, and George Routledge and Sons. Malekula, a Vanishing People in the New Hebrides, edited by Camilla H. Wedgwood. London, 1934, pp. 499–503.
Guiart, Jean. L'Art Autochtone de Nouvelle-Caledonie. Vol. vol. 9, no. 9. Nouméa: Éditions des Études mélanésiennes, 1953, p. 334.
Guiart, Jean. "Notes sur les tambours d'Ambrym." Journal de la Société des océanistes vol. 12 (1956), pp. 334–36.
Paton, W.F. Customs of Ambrym: Texts, Songs, Games,and Drawings. Pacific Linguistics Series, Vol. vol. 22. Canberra: The Australian National University, 1979, p. 60.
Crowe, Peter Russell. "Music in Vanuatu." In Arts of Vanuatu, edited by Joël Bonnemaison. Bathurst: Crawford House Publishing, 1996, pp. 145-49, 154-57, 145, 147.
Pataud-Celerier, Philippe. "In the Land of the Slit Gongs That Are Still Standing." Tribal Arts vol. 2 (Autumn 1997), pp. 56–62.
Kjellgren, Eric. "From Fanla to New York and Back: Recovering the Authorship and Iconography of a Slit Drum from Ambrym Island, Vanuatu." Journal of Museum Ethnography vol. 17 (2005), pp. 118, 120, 126–27.
Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 105, pp. 176–78.
Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 84–87.
Moore J. Kenneth, Jayson Kerr Dobney, and Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. Musical Instruments: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First Printing ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015, p. 176.