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Ongoma Drum © Phillip Staffa


With this project, COME IN TENT is dedicating its journey to instruments - in particular the lost drums (Ongoma). Despite the rich and complex cultural history of these instruments, they seem to have disappeared from their countries of origin. However, some drums from Namibia lie dormant in Hamburg, preserved with toxic liquids, archived with object numbers and dubious museum designations.

An unexpected journey begins in summer 2021 with the drum 74.41:234 in the attic archive of the "Africa Collections" at MARKK Hamburg.
In a three-year working process (working phases of research, production and presentation), a team of Namibian and German artists will set out in search of the drums and hopefully enter into a dialogue with them - as well as with musicians, drum makers, knowledge keepers, dancers, scientists and healers, …

The team will explore the complex biographies of these drums and build a relationship with them by: researching the colonial history of their displacement and appropriation - the museum's internal processes of archiving and conservation exploring their earlier, pre-colonial life in Namibia: their materials and construction, their sounds and communication, and the agencies they were holding within their societies  (social, cultural, political, spiritual, artistic)?

Furthermore, our project serves to radically correct the perpetuated cliché of the AFRICAN DRUM as well as dances, e.g. in ritual and healing practices, which still follow the construction of the "exotic other in trance" instead of following a very complex social, political and spiritual system of communication and transformation between visible and invisible actors. 

In the artistic approach we develop different (open & intimate) performances (music / sound I dance I lecture I collective craft I workshops I talks) based on artistic / craft & ritual / healing practices to explore " liminal spaces" and how our work can sustainably accompany restitution processes. Furthermore, our research can decolonise performance practices and theories ... The results will be presented at a performance festival in Hamburg, Germany, as well as in Windhoek, Namibia.

VOL I – The Birth of the Ongoma Drum

The discovery of the Ongoma drum in the museum was the catalyst for the first cautious, still very fragile approaches; numbers, attributions and descriptions, interpretations, organisational structures and storage, exhibiting and guarding, distance and logic, conservation and dissection are the terms that describe these first encounters and have consequently also guided the artistic processes.

Phase I was continued with research in Namibia in order to trace the path of the instruments and to learn old knowledge about handling and function.We followed the traces of the instruments to Namibia. Here we not only expanded our knowledge of the material and construction, but also met people who were able to provide us with information about the handling (sound, tone, playing) and function of the instruments (social, political, spiritual, artistic).

Relationships took place on many levels - to: origin and landscape; trees, hair and skins (material of the instruments); musicians, scholars, healers, researchers, music and sounds; songs, dances, rituals and social events, clothing and jewellery (social occasions), "knowledge keepers", colonial traces, ancestors...

Phase I was concluded with a performative sound installation in MARKK Hamburg.

28.06.2023 | Vol I – Salon and sound installation: The Birth of an Ongoma Drum | MARKK Hamburg

Curators Aino Moongo & Claude Jansen in conversation with the biologist / philosopher Dr. Andreas Weber | Concept Space: Jumoke Olusanmi | Concept Sound: Christine Börsch-Supan

Today we know that the drum is made out of three types of trees, the palm tree is one of them. A deliberative tree-scouting takes place. More than a meter - or a meter and a half of a debarked stump gets hollowed-out on one end and sharpened into a narrow but flat V-shape on the other end. The narrow end has one tiny little hole for ventilation. Freshly dried hairless skin pushed over the brim of the mouth and fastened with wooden nails along its rim. It's almost done, only one thing left, yes, that search for wild honey on the ground, not from the bees but something else. The honey functions as a tuning mechanism to control the depths of lowest pitch. If you heard a lion roar, it resonates far and wide touching you to the core of the spine, so does the drum! 

Vol I — The Birth of an Ongoma Drum | Fotos: © Hannah Shong

The Birth of an Ongoma Drum is an artistic approach to the first research experiences in the country of origin, and this begins with the complex production - the MADE TO BE ...

Team (in alphabetical order):

Aino Moongo NAM/ D (Kuratorium / Recherche), Claude Jansen D (Kuratorium / Recherche / Dramaturgie / künstlerische Gesamtleitung), Fabrice Mazliah D (Kuratorium / Recherche / Tanz Choreografie), Dr. Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja NAM (Kuratorium / Recherche / Performance), Shishani Vranckx NAM / NL (Kuratorium / Recherche / Musik / Performance)  

Jumoke Olusamni D (Raum), Michael Böhler D (Szenografie), Sarah Lasaki D (Research / Tanz), Christine Bösch-Sopan (Sound), Maria Caley (Kostüme), Afron Nyambali (Sound), Lambro Tsiliyiannis (Foto) wie auch Heiler*innen und Trommler*innen aus dem Norden Namibias 

Symposium / Gatherings / Tent Talks / Knowledge Transfer / Healing (indigenous knowledge & healing practices)
Prof. Dr. Nkiru Nzegwu, Dr. Lovisa Nampala

Management / Production
Gabriela Vasileva, Julia zur Lippe (GER), Rachel Shiweda (NAM)