Slit Drum, early 20th century

  • Barambo, African

Wood with pigment

  • Framed: Overall: 48 × 96 × 48 inches (121.9 × 243.8 × 121.9 cm)

Founders Society Purchase, Ralph Harman Booth Bequest Fund



Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas

  • Zande-mangbetu region
  • Wood
  • Pigment
  • Triangular
  • Slit drum
  • Horns
  • Zaire
  • Democratic republic of congo
  • Animal

Large wooden slit drums are used by chiefs or prominent nobles to transmit the coded tones of important messages over long distances, from village to village. Carved from a single tree trunk, the drum's walls vary in thickness and when struck produce a variety of tones, pitches, and rhythms that convey announcements and coded messages. The horned buffalo shape and large size of this drum reflect the high social status of its original owner. Drums of this type are installed in the center of the village in a special structure where they can be protected from the rain and sun.


(Alan Brandt, Inc., New York, New York, USA); 1986-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Published References

African Masterworks In The Detroit Institute of Arts. Washington and London: The Detroit Institute of Arts and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, cat. no. 46. Bulletin of the DIA 62, no. 3. 1986, p. 15. "Recent Acquisitions," African Arts, vol. 20, no. 2, p. 65 (ill.).

Rights Status

Barambo, African, Slit Drum, early 20th century, wood with pigment. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Ralph Harman Booth Bequest Fund, 1986.26.