SLIT DRUM IN THE FORM OF A BUFFALO,
24 5/8 x 104 5/8 x 20 1/2 inches
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Thomas C. Colt, Jr. Memorial Fund
Slit Drum in the Form of a Buffalo
This carved wooden sculpture represents a buffalo, but it is actually a drum. The block of wood has been hollowed out so that when it is hit, a sound is made that can be heard for as much as twelve miles away. In Central Africa, drums like this were used to transmit messages, but also used to make music during dances. There is a slit, that is, a narrow opening, along the top of this carving, which is why this is called a “slit drum.” One side of the opening is carved out thinly, the other is thicker. When the drum is played, the drummer can produce high or low sounds depending on which side is hit, and the variety of sounds is so great the drummer may actually mimic the sound of spoken language. These drums were made to be large and impressive, because they represented the power of spirits in the forest, and how that power also belonged to the chief of the village.