Indiana University Indiana University IU

Culture Austral Islands
Title Drum (Tariparau, Pahu-Ra)
Date 1800–1850
Medium Tamanu wood (calophyllum inophyllum), sharkskin, and and sennit
Dimensions Object: 54 × 21 3/8 in. (137.2 × 54.3 cm)
Overall: 54 x 21 3/8 in. (137.2 x 54.3 cm)
Credit Line Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 80.5.3

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About this Work

Though we will never know his name, we can be sure that as a master craftsman in Polynesia the carver of this intricate drum was a member of the elite among Polynesians who considered carving a sacred activity to be performed accompanied by prayers and chants. About a dozen similar tall cylindrical Austral drums are known, and all are believed to have been carved on the island of Raivavae. Each is carved from a single piece of wood and has two hollow chambers. The crisp and detailed workmanship indicates that metal tools were used; indeed, it is hard to imagine that a carver could have made this instrument with the stone, bone, shell, and teeth tools that were used before interactions with European explorers and traders made iron tools readily available.
Though the coming of Europeans during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was disastrous for traditional Polynesian culture, objects such as this one bear witness to a brief period between contact and acculturation in which skilled carvers reached new heights.

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Drum | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.