Suku ‘N’koku Ngoombu’ Slit Drum 

The drum functions in several ways. It is used for preparing divinatory medicines, it is beaten at a diviner’s funeral, or it is used to announce the diviner’s presence in a village he has journeyed to. 

Tribe: Suku / Yaka

Origin: D.R.Congo

Approx Age: 1930s

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 36 tall not including stand

Ref. Number: 1062


A beautifully styled Suku N’koku Ngoombu slit drum from DRC, made from very hardwood. These are used by the Suku and Yaka people for divination ceremony rather than to make music. Lovely old wear patina on the head and neck where it would be held and very good evidence of being used. 

Provenance: Ex André Vanhecke, Belgium


Such slit drums of wood are not used by the Yaka and Suku people in south-west Congo, as musical instruments for entertainment and dancing, but instead exclusively for rhythmic accompaniment during sacred rites (initiation, burial, healing the sick, etc.).

The Yaka and Suku people typically turn to a ngoombu (diviner) when seeking identification of an illness or misfortune. It is the ngoombu’s responsibility to identify the cause of the ailment and recommend a remedy, without prior knowledge of the client or his/her situation. A n’koku ngoombu slit drum (also called n-kookwa ngoombu in some sources; meaning ‘diviner slit drum’) is an object that forms part of the divination ensemble. While divination is in progress, the ngoombu taps the drum with a small gong attached to it. It is believed that the sounds made are used to call on spiritual powers and also represent words from the mouth of the diviner and in turn, he must translate the sounds to reveal the cause of the misfortune inflicted upon the client.

Yaka diviner with slit drum, Mahunda Malaku sounds her nkooku slit drum with its sculptured handle and wears a neck pendant containing charm ingredients related to two traditions within ngoombu weefwa divination.  The system known as ngoombu weefwa is used to determine the origin of all calamities and illness among the Yaka and their neighbours and relate them to a particular curse responsible for the affliction.  Without any assistance from the client or those attending, the diviner must demonstrate clairvoyant powers by revealing the problem, places where events occurred, and names of and relationships between the individuals concerned.  

Mahunda Malaku with her divination drum, Yaka artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976. Photo by Arthur Bourgeois. 

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