The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection; Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller and Mrs. Mary C. Rockefeller, 1965
Not on view
Drums hold a significant place in Asmat culture. According to their creation myth, the culture hero Fumeripits made the first carvings of men and women and placed them in the first men's ceremonial house. By beating on his drum, Fumeripits caused the figures to dance, bringing them to life.
The only musical instruments used by the Asmat are drums, which are beaten in a regular rhythm to accompany songs that are part of all ceremonies and feasts. Lizard-skin tympanums (drum heads) are attached to the drums with an adhesive mixture of lime and human blood. Handles are elaborately carved, usually with images of relatives and the heads of parrots and cockatoos. The figure on this particular work probably represents the father of the owner. The designs on the base of the drum depict the shell-nose ornaments worn by Asmat warriors.
Michael C. Rockefeller Expedition, collected 1961; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1961–1965; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978
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, pp. 174-175.