Art/ Collection/ Art Object


early 20th century
Akan Ashanti people
Wood, polychrome, skin, trade beads, plastic
Height: 20 7/8 in. (53 cm) Width: 21 5/8 in. (55 cm) Depth: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm)
Membranophone-single-headed / kettle drum
Credit Line:
Gift of Raymond E. Britt Sr., 1977
Accession Number:
Not on view
Master or lead drums such as this kettle-shaped one were the musical and visual focal point of secular bands that performed a traditional form of entertainment popular in the Akan communities of southern Ghana. Drums in these ensembles were thought of in terms of a family, with the master drum being the mother, emphasizing the importance of the traditional matrilineal kinship system. The two female caryatids holding the drum represent the instrument's perceived femininity. The mother nurturing her child alludes to female fecundity and to the importance of the matrilineal line in Akan culture. The woman writing in a book reflects the Akan preoccupation with education. These motifs exemplify the common familial, social, and political iconography of master drums.
Raymond E. Britt Jr. ; Raymond Britt Sr.
Jayson Kerr Dobney, Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. Musical Instruments: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First Printing. @2015 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 2015, pp. 136-137, ill.

Esther A. Dagan in Drums: The Heartbeat of Africa. (not entered)., Galerie Amrad African Art Publications. Montreal, Canada, 1993, pg. 28,102, fig. 45,28.10, ill.

"Notable Acquisitions 1975-1979: Musical Instruments." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1979), pg. 46, ill.

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