The apentema (aka Apentemma)- 18th century| The British Museum

The British Museum – Africa Collection

Object Type


Museum number



Drum (Apentemma) goblet shaped open drum with a hollow pedestal, the main body made of wood (Cordia africana), with six wood pegs (Baphia nitida), a skin head (deer or antelope?) and cord made of two main vegetable fibres (Clappertonia ficfolia and Raphia) – among others – which is around the head of the drum and attached to the pegs; there is a coating on the…

Production ethnic group

Made by: Akan

Production date


Production place

Made in: Ghana

Africa: sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana

Excavator/field collector

Field Collection by: Clerk


Found/Acquired: Virginia (state)

Americas: North America: USA: Virginia (state)


camwood (Baphia nitida)

deer skin (?)

antelope skin (?)

african cordia

fibre (Clappertonia ficifolia and Raphia)


Diameter: 24 centimetres

Height: 41 centimetres

Width: 28 centimetres (at widest)


· Inscription type: annotation

· Inscription position: on the drum’s surface

· Inscription language: English

· Inscription content: A Drum from Virginia

· Inscription note: Handwritten in pen

Curator’s comments

The apentema (aka Apentemma) was made in the early 18th century and would have been part of one of any number of drum groups or ensembles from West Africa – fontomfrom , Adowa, Kete or Abofoe. the drum is played with an open hand, not sticks.

Bibliographic references

Romanek 2010 / To the beat of the drum

King 1999 / First Peoples, First Contacts: Native Peoples of North America (p.79)

MacGregor 1994 / Sir Hans Sloane : collector, scientist, antiquary, founding father of the British Museum (p. 234, p. 243 (note 93))

Vlach 1978 / The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts (p.20, fig.5)

Watkins 1976 / A Plantation of Differences – People from Everywhere (p.75, fig.51)

Braunholtz 1970 / Sir Hans Sloane and Ethnography (pl. 17, pp. 20-27)

Braunholtz 1953 / The Sloane Collection: Ethnography (pl. VIII)

Bushnell 1906 / The Sloane Collection in the British Museum (pp. 676-678, pl. XXXV)

MacGregor 2010 / A History of the World in 100 Objects (86)


On display (G26/dc3)

Exhibition history


1976, National Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution; A Nation of Nations
1994-1999 Oct-May, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool; Transatlantic Slavery Gallery
1999-2010 25 Jun-9 Aug, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: “The Southeastern Woodlands”
2010 10 Aug-12 Oct, BM Room 3; Akan Drum: The…

Associated ethnic name

Associated with: African-American

Acquisition name

Bequeathed by: Sir Hans Sloane

Acquisition date


Acquisition notes

The Sloane register records that this drum was acquired from a Mr. Clerk of Virginia, then a British colony, by Hans Sloane in the early eighteenth century. The records suggest that Clerk may have collected it from an “Indian” group, although its association with the slave trade is clear based on the African materials and origin.


Africa, Oceania and the Americas

Registration number


Additional IDs

CDMS number: Am1753D10.1368 (old CDMS no.)





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