Traditional Torres Strait Islander art and craftsmanship have been passed down from generation to generation, and remain a key part of today’s cultural practices. These skills continue to be taught, and processes and tools are adapting to suit the changing social environment. The drum plays an important part in social, cultural and political events in Torres Strait Islander life.
There were two types of drums – one, like this, which could be played while being carried; the other which was placed and played on the ground. The wooden drum being carried and played by this Torres Strait Islander has an animal carving (of an eel or a barracuda) which is probably his totem. Each clan’s totem was protected and never hunted by its members – a way of ensuring survival of the species. Torres Strait Islander drums were decorated with shells which rattled when the drum was being beaten.