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Central Java Slit Gong with Head



Slit gongs have been used all over traditional Java since pre-history, as a musical instrument and also more importantly as an emergency and security communication tool. Every village would have several large slit gongs, placed strategically to be able to pass messages from one to the others. There are different beats to communicate different emergency situations, like theft, armed robbery, cattle hustlers, floods, fire, volcano activity, death and so on.

A slit gong of this size would likely be used in either a village guard house, which might be part of the front area of the head of village security, or a small mosque. It would have hung by the iron bits stuck into its head and would have been struck by a club. A larger slit gong would be hung in the front home of the village chief.

Most Javanese slit gongs are plain and this one, adorned with the figure of a head, is rather unusual. Although it seems to have been hung and painted with lime for a long time, it does not appear to have been beaten that much. Often slit gongs were made and hung but not used much, because of the sound they make or not make. This slit gong probably was rarely beaten because it is not so resonant, but it would have been hung as decoration anyway. As such it is an interesting example of village carving on everyday objects.

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