Parent Page/Current Page

Lesson Plan: Voices of the Past

A hollow, wooden Oceanic sculpture with a bird-like face, large round eyes, sharp down-turned beak, and pointed head

Slit Gong (Atingting Kon)
Mid- to late 1960s
Commissioned by Tain Mal, carved by Tin Mweleun (active 1960s)
Vanuatu, Ambrym Island, Fanla village
Wood, paint; H. 168 in. (430 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1975 (1975.93)

Collection Area: Oceanic Art
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Music, Technology, Visual Arts, World History
Grades: Elementary School, Middle School
Topics/Themes: Communities, Artist Choices, The Art of Belief


Students will be able to:
  • identify the function of this object in its original context;
  • compare and contrast the way communities around the world engage with their elders; and
  • analyze the physical and emotional impact of scale in works of art.

National Learning Standards

English Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.10 Applying Non-English Perspectives

NA.5-8.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture

NT.K-12.4 Technology Communications Tools

World History
NSS-WH.5-12.9 Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes

Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.K-12.6 Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

*Art as text

Questions for Viewing

  • Take a moment to look closely. What do you notice?
  • This object was made in Melanesia from the wood of a breadfruit tree. How might it feel if you touched it?
  • How might the impact of this work change if you could fit it in your pocket? Why do you think the artist made it so large?
  • This object, called a slit gong (or slit drum), is a musical instrument played on special occasions such as dances, initiations, and funerals. What special occasions do you honor in your community? What type of music, clothing, or food is associated with each occasion?
  • Gongs like this one are also used as methods of communication between villages. How might you use this instrument to convey a range of messages?
  • The gong represents an ancestor. When the instrument is struck, his or her voice comes out of the long, narrow mouth. What might this object tell us about the community’s feelings or ideas about their ancestors?
  • What role do ancestors play in your community?


Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: Audio recordings of oral histories from your community, paper, pencil, and audio recording device
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Technology, Visual Arts, World History
Duration: 120 minutes

Listen to oral history recordings to hear the voices of ancestors from your community. What do you have in common with these individuals? How do their actions and ideas influence life today? Create a list of questions to use as a basis for an interview with an elder member of your community. Record your interview and share your observations with your peers.


"Commissioned by Tain Mal, carved by Tin Mweleun: Slit Gong (Atingting Kon) (1975.93)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (January 2010)

Kjellgren, Eric. "Musical Instruments of Oceania." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (January 2010)

Sounding the Pacific: Musical Instruments of Oceania. In Special Exhibitions. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009–11.

Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Slit Gong (Waken)
19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik region, Komindimbit village, Iatmul
Wood; L. 152 in. (386 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1968 (1978.412.1536)

Friction Drum (Lunet or Livika)
Late 19th–early 20th century
New Ireland
Wood, shell; L. 19 1/2 in. (49.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1477)

Author: Claire Moore
Affiliation: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Date: 2010

Detail of a stone face

The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History pairs essays and works of art with chronologies, telling the story of art and global culture through The Met collection.

Artist in the galleries for The Artist Project

The Artist Project asks artists to reflect on what art is and what inspires them from across 5,000 years of art. Their unique and passionate ways of seeing and experiencing art reveal the power of a museum and encourage all visitors to look in a personal way.

A small family creating art

Look, learn, and create together during fun, interactive programs for kids of all ages and their parents/caregivers. Program times and topics vary.

A teen with blue hair and a blue flower in her hair

The Met is the place to be for teens. Check out classes, workshops, and special events designed especially for teens to develop their skills, and connect with art, ideas, and other young people! Program times and topics vary.