This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1996. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
"Drums and Shields" commemorates two of the major traditions
of tribal Africa. Nothing conjures up the spirit and power of Africa as
much as drums. Nothing defends or protects the people as symbolically as
Instruments of music, ritual and communication, the drums resound with meaning and significance to the many cultures they represent, including the Yoruba, Akan, Fon, Senufo, Kuba, Chokwe and Bamun peoples. All hollow carved cylinders of wood, with tightly stretched skin at one or both ends, they vary wonderfully in size, style, complexity, use and age. All have sculptural quality, with symbolic imagery or abstract embellishment attesting to the importance of drums in their cultures. Some are old, their loose or damaged drum heads end their functionality but reflect with honor on their years of use. Also included: slit drums of the Dan and Yaka.
For drummers, we have contempoary Djembe drums from the Malinke (Guinea and Mali) and talking drums from No. Ghana. Djembe are the goblet shaped hand drums, ritually carved from the lenke tree, its membrane of goat skin stretched and fastened by complex lace work. Their melodic, multi-faceted tone is controlled by the placement of the hand strokes. Talking drums are played with a curved stick; the pitch, imitating speech, is changed by the placement of the thumb and by squeezing the rawhide stings with the arm.
Shields create images of tribal warriors, of Africa's traditional past. Used for protection or ritual display, they include strong woven works of the Kuba and Hutu, small hand shields of the Fon and tough skin shields from Ethiopia. Relics of a time when heros wore shields, now the shields serve to protect tradition and honor the past.
Drums and shields will show traditional drums used for music, ritual and communication in styles from the Akan, Fon, Senufo, Yoruba, Kuba and Chokwe peoples, plus slit drums from the Dan and Yaka. Shields for protection and ceremony include woven works of the Kuba, Hutu and Fon and leather pieces from Ethiopia.