By Pelu Awofeso
De Roots Renaissance and the Femi Art gallery, both based in Badagry (Western tip of Lagos State), Nigeria, have unveiled what is touted as the ‘tallest drum in the world’. Standing at 11ft and a width of 6ft, the drum is made of hardwood and covered with—wait for it—deer skin.
“It took three months to complete and we did all the work inside the Badagry Heritage Museum,” says one of the main collaborators Femi Coker. “Because the average human being is no more than six feet tall, the drum can only be beaten by men on stilts.”
The reliefs (by Jonathan Edwards) on the drum is a cultural and historical journey though Nigerian time and space, with sculptures on multiple levels depicting masks & masquerades, indigenous traditional worshippers & gods, ifa divination tray and crowns, farming and coconut plantations, chained slaves and European slave dealers, among others.
A newsletter published by De Roots Renaissance in February (2013) to commemorate the
American Black History Month in Nigeria says the drum “is a symbolic representation of the gargantuan contributions of the black race to world civilization” in spite of slavery, colonization, oppression and suppression over the past centuries.
“Through all these burdensome vicissitudes the black man could still raise his head up making steady but monumental contributions to science and technology, sports, entertainment, music, academia, business and politics.”
The drum is already on show at the newly renovated Kalakuta Museum (7 Gbemisola Street, Ikeja), few metres from the tomb of the late Afrobeat giant Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. It will be there all through February. “Our plan is to travel with it to different parts of the state,” Femi Coker tells waka-about. “The National Theatre (Iganmu) is going to be one of the stops.”
Awofeso is a recent winner of the CNN/Multichoice African Journalists Awards (tourism category). He has published three travel books about his various travels across Nigeria. He lives in Lagos, SW Nigeria