Art/ Collection/ Art Object


ca. 1900
Zambesi province, Mozambique
Barwe People?
Wood, shell, metal, beads
Height: 9 3/16 in. (23.4 cm) Width: 6 5/8 in. (16.9 cm)
Idiophone-Plucked / Depressed
Credit Line:
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Accession Number:
Not on view
The nyonganyonga is a lamellaphone, an instrument consisting of thin metal or split cane tongues mounted on a resonating board or box. Depressing the free ends of the tongues with the thumbs produces a gentle ringing sound, sometimes augmented by jingling objects attached to the board. The instrument may be amplified by holding it in a hollow gourd. Tuning is accomplished by sliding the tongues in or out to change their vibrating length. Lamellaphones are distributed across sub-Saharan Africa and were brought to Latin America by enslaved Africans. They are known by many names that also may be shared with xylophones. Most names have word stems that include -mbila -mira -limba or -rima. Westerners, not recognizing differences in construction, have simplified the name to two regional terms, calling them either mbira or sanza.
Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown
"Musical Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1978), Vol. XXXV, No. 3, pg. 24, ill.

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