Made only on the island New Ireland north of New Guinea, this superb idiophone friction drum is unique to Oceania. The instruments consist of a horizontal block of wood the upper portion of which is carved out to form a series of three or four sound-producing wedges (or "tongues") on the top. Lunet (livika) were played by men. To sound the instrument, the musician moistened his hand with plant sap and rubbed the palm of his hand rapidly across the tongues, producing a series of rising tones that resembled the cry of a bird for which the instrument was named. This magnificent example is uniquely fully decorated in a carved representation of a feathered bird with a second complete birds head finial. Opercula are used for the two sets of eyes.
Lunet were used during the final mortuary rites of certain malagan ceremonies, elaborate rituals that honored the dead. During the ceremony, the player would often be concealed inside a conical "nest" suspended from a tree or lying on a platform made from the roots of an upturned tree. Hidden within this enclosure, he played the instrument, whose sound was said to be the voices of the spirits of the dead or children speaking through the bird call.
ARTIST: Unknown Malagan Master Carver.
DIMENSIONS: 69cm x 17cm x 17cm approx
WEIGHT: 4.0kg. ( 9.0 lbs.)
MATERIAL: Tropical Rainforest wood, Resin, Shell (Turbo petholatus)
CONDITION: Good, used rubbed. Some fine minor stable age cracks.
AGE: Mid C 20 WW11.
ETHNOGRAPHY: This is a rare large, late traditional example of a New Ireland highly ornate decorated Friction Rub/stroked Drum. It presents in good used condition with no major damage or deterioration in the wood. In New Ireland Arts of the South Pacific 2006 Gunn & Peltier state that there are only 50 known examples of this musical Malagan instrument in Museums or private collections. Large overall by published examples (40cm average), the three tongue area is in fact standard 40cm which is the old traditional dimension for the sound box tongue section. The ornate bird livika decorated carved design is very rare & perhaps a once off by a master Malagan Launat carver. Livika is the name for a New Ireland bird variety so the design is obviously a mirror of the local dual term for this instrument. Condition is indicative of use in several traditional Malagan funeral ceremonies. Instrument is designed to be played cradled like a sleeping human baby and to sound like a baby crying when played.
Arthur Beau Palmer Family Collection. Field Collected.