58
58

OCEANIC ART FROM THE ESTATE OF LYNDA CUNNINGHAM

Slit Gong, Probably Small Nambas, Malakula, Vanuatu
Estimate
15,00025,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
58

OCEANIC ART FROM THE ESTATE OF LYNDA CUNNINGHAM

Slit Gong, Probably Small Nambas, Malakula, Vanuatu
Estimate
15,00025,000
LOT SOLD. 11,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

|
New York

Slit Gong, Probably Small Nambas, Malakula, Vanuatu

Provenance

Lynda Cunningham, New York, acquired before November, 1979

Literature

Oceanic Primitive Arts (adv.), African Arts, November 1979, vol. XIII, no. 1, p. 77

Catalogue Note

Distinctive for their minimalist aesthetic and tonal versatility, slit gongs were symbols of status in Vanuatu society and have been an important part of the musical tradition of the indigenous inhabitants for centuries. Upon landing on the island of Malakula, from which the present lot originates, the crew of Captain James Cook remarked: 'We realized that the people on Malakula spend part of their time playing music and dancing. Their instruments are very simple [...] We only heard drums [...]' (Ammann, Sounds of Secrets, 2012, p. 119).

Slit gongs are prominently featured in social and religious ceremonies in the island chain, often in ensemble with other gongs of different sizes. Sculpted from hollowed-out tree trunks, the top of the gong is carved as a powerful stylized face of an ancestor, with large protruding triangles representing the eyes and nose, and the slit representing the mouth. These objects were therefore perceived as portraits as much as instruments. The playing of the gong symbolized the activation of the ancestor's spirit, though the instruments were also used to communicate over long distances. This particular drum was probably made by the Small Nambas people of Malakula, who are named for the style of phallocrypt which the men wear.

Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

|
New York