Name: Akan Drum
Date: before 1710
British Museum, London
Material: Wood and animal skin
Visitable: 12 August – 10 October 2010 / Room 3 / Free
The Akan drum is the oldest African-American object in the
British Museum, brought from West Africa to the Colony of Virginia as part of the slave trade around 1735. ‘Akan’ refers to an ethnic and linguistic group from West Africa which includes
Asante and Akuapem, and its culture is most apparent today in . Ghana
The drum was acquired by Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection formed the basis of the
when it was founded in 1753. Broadcaster, playwright, and British Museum Trustee Bonnie Greer has been involved in the creation of the display, and it focuses on two main themes – the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the origins of African-American music. British Museum
The first part of the display describes the journey of the drum from
West Africa to the Colony of Virginia, relating the suffering and displacement of peoples as a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
This journey would have typically included the practice of ‘dancing the slaves’, where enslaved Africans were forcibly exercised on board the
slave ships, a practice in which it is likely this
drum would have played a part.
The second part of the display examines the massive influence of African and African-
American music on most popular music from the
20th century onwards, including jazz, blues, R&B,
and rock ’n’ roll.
The drum is one of the objects featured in the
and BBC Radio 4 series British Museum
A History of the World in 100 objects
© Photo and text: British Museum