Drum and voice: aesthetics and social process on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea

James Graham Leach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reite people on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea describe a large ceremonial drum (a garamut) as a man. In its construction, a garamut is the focus of a process which brings forth a form of social relations, as well as the object itself. I ask, 'What language night we use to describe such a creation?'. In recent discussions of art, the concepts of aesthetics and technology have been central. Drawing briefly on this literature, I approach an ethnographic description of garamut construction as revealing the particular way in which Reite people generate their social world. The construction is based upon mythic knowledge. This shapes the mode in which persons as gendered agents, and with particular identities, are made to appear. A specific 'aesthetic' scheme is thus apparent. The emergence of the garamut cannot be seen as the end of the process. The object has effect within and upon the relations given form by its emergence. Formation is ongoing, with becoming built in.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-734
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Cite this