Objects 2019

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16 AM 15629/18
George Nona War & Ceremonial Drum (Warup) - Dhuiumau Urui 2018
Quandong wood, beeswax, bush twine, bush rope, kauri shells, goa nuts, cassowary feathers, goanna skin, mangrove resin

and charcoal black 1300mm L x 420mm W x 410mm H - approximate sizes $85000 Badu Island war & ceremonial drum (Warup) Dhuiumau Urui - Voice of God; is calling totem that spiritually connects with the thunder.

(This drum that I have crafted is in accordance to my research and knowledge acquired from our past and present elders).

This piece is a 2018 Telstra National Aboriginal &Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) finalist. Regrettably, logistics failed to get it to Darwin in time for the exhibition catalogue. The Torres Strait Islands have their own traditional drum called the "Warup". The warup is carved and hollowed from wood, traditionally a very time-consuming process. Goanna skin is stretched over the drum and held in place with bush rope and the ring is sealed with bees wax. George's warup is decorated with traditional marking and tufts of feathers of the cassowary bird and carved with traditional marking, totems and dhoerie's (traditional headdress). Warups are used for celebrations, island dancing and singing. George has tuned the Warup, a bit like tuning a guitar. This was done by heating the goanna skin and adjusting the bees wax then hitting it to hear if it sounds right. This way his culture remains strong. The cassowary feeds on the marble sized fruits of the quandong, hence the association shown in this warup. The Cassowary clan were the owners of this type of drum. The dark markings on the wood have been made by the application of charcoal black that has then been wiped.


The design of the drum represents three sub totems of Badu Island; Dugong, Turtle and Crocodile. However, the drum is crafted with a Thupmul positioned on top, signifying a possession of the Thupmul clan, the dominant totem on Badu Island. The carvings encompassing the Thupmul signifies Ugupalan (Dust storm) with trevally fishes in between representing the warriors of the Thupmul clan. The carvings illustrated around the mouth of the drum are totemic markings that has spiritual significance with the sound.

The engraving at the front of the drum depicts markings of the thupmul clan, however due to cultural protocols I've been strictly advised by elders not to explain further.


The thunder (Dhuium) has a spiritual connection with the totem of Thupmul. It is considered the sound of thunder causes Thupmuls to move towards the shore lines of Badu Island, this manner was then perceived by the Thupmul clan to initiate their young men transitioning to manhood and prompt warfare on nearby islands. Prior to war, the warriors would mimick physical movements of the trevally fish in a sacred ceremonial dance.

The Thupmul drum was an instrument used in particular sacred ceremonial rituals and customs, in accordance with cultural protocols it was then beat by an assigned individual.

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