Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Water Drum

19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, Mindimbit village, Middle Sepik River region
Iatmul people
Wood, fiber
H. 53 1/4 x Diam. 12 in. (135.3 x 30.5 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 354
The Iatmul people, who live along the middle reaches of the Sepik River, are among the most prolific and accomplished sculptors in New Guinea. Iatmul religion was complex and included a diversity of rites and ceremonies devoted to ancestors, spirits, and other supernatural beings. Almost every important occasion had ceremonial aspects, and some, such as male initiations, lasted for months. Iatmul
ceremonies often included both secret rites known only to men and public performances in which women and children participated. In the past, warfare and headhunting were
integral elements of religious life. The Iatmul were, and remain, vigorous artists and builders. Their most impressive architectural achievements were their large, splendidly decorated men’s ceremonial houses, which were the center of male religious life. Ceremonial performances entailed the use of masks, sacred images of ancestors and spirits, and a range of sacred musical instruments, including
flutes, slit gongs, and drums. Stools incorporating ancestral figures formed the centerpieces for ceremonial debates. Almost all utilitarian objects also were carved and painted.
#1180: Kids: Water Drum
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Count Etienne de Ganay Collection, by 1936–1961, collected on La Korrigane Expedition, 1934–1936; (Hôtel Drouot Rive Gauche, Paris, December 4–5, 1961, no. 79); Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1961, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1961–1978

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