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War drum late ninteenth century

Hardwood | 12.0 x 68.0 x 30.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 69928

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  • Central African slit gong or drum or carved hardwood wood with a carrying handle cut into the back; the spine is carved with later Sudan geometric patterns; slit is along the base.

    Drums of this kind were used in Central Africa to transmit messages or summon warriors for battle, as well as forming part of court orchestras which marked events such births and deaths. The hardwood is resistant to termites and can sustain repeated striking.

    The drum may have arrived in Sudan via the Egyptian slave trade, which in the nineteenth century expanded rapidly, moving people and goods northwards from Central Africa to Egypt and the Middle East. Carved geometric decoration was likely added by new owners in Sudan - Islamic motifs intended to ward off the Evil Eye.

    Major General Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener was commander of the Anglo-Egyptian troops who fought against the islamic, Mahdist State in Sudan, winning a decisive victory at the 1898 Battle of Omdurman. His efforts to gain British control of the Sudan earned him the name 'Lord Kitchener of Khartoum'. It was in this period that Kitchener faced the Mahdist commander, Emir Wad Bishara, from whom this drum was taken. Kitchener later presented it to Queen Victoria.

    Another slit drum, in the shape of a buffalo, was seized at Omdurman by Kitchener and also presented to Queen Victoria. In 1937 it was presented by King George VI to the British Museum (BM 11-8.1).

    Taken from the defeated Mahdist commander, Emir Wad Bishara, during the 'Dongola Expedition' of June 1896 and presented to Queen Victoria by Major General Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener. On 16 November Kitchener dined with the Queen, who recorded in her Journal that 'he is a striking energetic looking man, with rather a firm expression, but very pleasing to talk to. He brought me back very interesting trophies'. Among them was Wad Bishara's 'War Drum', which 'is beaten to rally or alarm the troops'. Displayed in the Museum (now China Museum) at Windsor Castle in 1900, with Wad Bishara's banner, sword, lance and saddle.

  • Medium and techniques



    12.0 x 68.0 x 30.0 cm (whole object)

  • Place of Production