Bullroarer (Imunu Viki [?])

Namau people

Not on view

An ancient instrument found in many parts of the world, the bullroarer typically consists of an oblong slat of wood with a hole bored in one end through which a long string is tied. To play it, the slat is swung rapidly in a circular motion through the air by the string. This causes the slat to rotate rapidly on its long axis, producing a deep, undulating, whirring sound. In some areas of the Pacific, bullroarers are secular instruments, even children's toys, but in many cultures they are ritual objects.

In the Purari River Delta in southeast New Guinea, bullroarers were highly sacred objects known only to a select group of initiated men. Played during male initiations, their eerie sound was said to be the voices of the kaiaimunu, powerful spirits embodied in large wickerwork effigies depicting monstrous animals kept in the men's ceremonial house. Sometimes called imunu viki (weeping spirit), bullroarers were also played at the funerals of prominent men where the sound represented the cries of a spirit (imunu) lamenting the person's death.

Bullroarer (Imunu Viki [?]), Wood, lime, Namau people

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.