Friction Drum (Lunet or Livika), Wood, shell, Northern New Ireland

Friction Drum (Lunet or Livika)

late 19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, New Ireland
Northern New Ireland
Wood, shell
H. 9 1/4 x W. 20 x D. 8 1/4 in. (23.5 x 50.8 x 21 cm)
Wood-Musical Instruments
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 684
In northern New Ireland, wooden drums known as lunet were used as musical instruments during malagan ceremonies, elaborate feasts that honored the dead. In contrast to the complex funerary carvings displayed during these ceremonies, drums were neither painted nor adorned with intricate designs. Instead, they were unique in their simplicity of form, and their decoration was limited to a series of carved, almond-shaped eyes inset with opercula, the calcified "doors" that originally covered the openings of snail shells.

Lunet were "friction drums" with three sound-producing wedges (or "tongues") on top. These wedges, each cut to a different size, separated from each other and have small spaces hollowed out underneath. A musician would have played the drum by moistening one of his hands with water and rubbing it across the wedges, creating a unique blend of tones reminiscent of the cry of the bird for which the drum was named.
#1770. Friction Drum (Lunet or Livika)
For Audio Guide tours and information, visit
[Everett Rassiga, New York, until 1957]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1957, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1957–1978

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, p. 151.