Shrine Drum – Museum Crush

Shrine drum, Bakongo (Vili) peoples, Kingdom of Kongo, Central Africa. © RAMM


Donated in 1866 by Dartmouth shipbuilder Richard Redway whose brother Thomas had a fleet of trading ships that went to Africa. Although it states on the drum that it was taken from an African temple, it is more likely to mean that it was perhaps unethically acquired from an African shrine.

Such a drum would not have been made available for sale to Westerners and was likely abandoned due to insect damage, which happens when wood is left in situ for a great length of time. This is a particularly rare drum as it depicts snakes and ancestors, each motif and gesture has a meaning that is unknown at this time.

There are similar Kongo drums like this one but they are rare. They can be found at the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford, Royal Museum for Central Africa in Turvuren, Belgium and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.


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Director of Manchester School of Samba at
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