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Kamikaula : water drum

idiophone

The Melanesian Iatmul people live along the middle course of the Sepik, a river in northern Papua New Guinea. The population of a few thousand live from culture and fishing in a low-lying and marshy region. The crocodile is very present in their symbolic, spiritual and artistic life.

The musical instruments of the Iatmul are generally useful objects for ceremonies rather than musical instruments as we understand and use them. This is the case of the earth drum presented here (drum of which a hole dug in the ground is an essential component).

The mim's kamikaula is made of a large thick piece of wood carved in the shape of a turtle. The head and tail protrude from the body and are cut into rings, the back has a sculpted decoration and the edges are decorated with a frieze. The metal rings on the sides were probably added later. The underside of the kamikaula is hollowed out to form a cavity that allows the production of sound.

The turtle is not the complete instrument: you also need a hollow in the ground to produce the sound. Depending on the village, this hollow may or may not be filled with water. The heavy wooden turtle is dropped into the pit. By touching the ground or water, it produces a thumping noise. Ties passed through the rings allow for two men to pull it up, and then to drop it again. Kamikaula are used in pairs alternately (two instruments and two pits) during the initiation of young boys.

The Iatmul also use a type of water drum, the abuk waak, which is dug lengthwise into a trunk and has its ends left open. One end extends into an elongated handle. The mim keeps an abuk waak eaten by termites and decorated with a crocodile (inv. 4095, before 1964).  Also played in pairs, these drums are alternately immersed in pits filled with water. They produce a sound when they hit the surface of the water violently.

The sound produced by these instruments represents the voice of an ancestor or crocodile spirit who intervenes during the initiation of boys. Women and uninitiated children cannot know them.The musical instruments of the Iatmul are generally useful objects for ceremonies rather than musical instruments as we understand and use them. This is the case of the earth drum presented here (drum of which a hole dug in the ground is an essential component).

The mim's kamikaula is made of a large thick piece of wood carved in the shape of a turtle. The head and tail protrude from the body and are cut into rings, the back has a sculpted decoration and the edges are decorated with a frieze. The metal rings on the sides were probably added later. The underside of the kamikaula is hollowed out to form a cavity that allows the production of sound.

The turtle is not the complete instrument: you also need a hollow in the ground to produce the sound. Depending on the village, this hollow may or may not be filled with water. The heavy wooden turtle is dropped into the pit. By touching the ground or water, it produces a thumping noise. Ties passed through the rings allow for two men to pull it up, and then to drop it again. Kamikaula are used in pairs alternately (two instruments and two pits) during the initiation of young boys.

The Iatmul also use a type of water drum, the abuk waak, which is dug lengthwise into a trunk and has its ends left open. One end extends into an elongated handle. The mim keeps an abuk waak eaten by termites and decorated with a crocodile (inv. 4095, before 1964).  Also played in pairs, these drums are alternately immersed in pits filled with water. They produce a sound when they hit the surface of the water violently.

The sound produced by these instruments represents the voice of an ancestor or crocodile spirit who intervenes during the initiation of boys. Women and uninitiated children cannot know them.

 

Media
Images: 
Kamikaula, inv.3939, view from above
Kamikaula, inv.3939, seen from below
Abuk waak, inv.4095
Functioning schema