The Museu de la Música devotes a temporary exhibition to musical instruments from New Guinea

13-May-2021 – Aleix Palau

Barcelona’s Museu de la Música presents a new temporary exhibition entitled ‎‎Música i natura a l’illa de Nova Guinea (Music and Nature on the Island of New ‎Guinea), aimed at introducing visitors to the musical instruments found on ‎this Pacific island. ‎

The exhibition, which is open to visitors until 26 June 2022, has been ‎organised thanks to a collaborative initiative between the Barcelona museum and ‎‎Fundación La Fontana, one of the most important private collections of ‎ethnological instruments in the world. This collaborative relationship began in 2019 with the ‎exhibition Músiques als dits. Sanses africanes de la Fundació La Fontana (Music in Your ‎Fingers. Fundación La Fontana’s African Sanses).‎

Curated by Elena Martínez-Jacquet, the collection features 15 ‎instruments: 12 owned by Fundación La Fontana and 3 by the Museu de la Música. ‎The instruments on display are made up of horns, flutes, buzzers, ‎membranophones, slit drums and water drums. ‎

New Guinea, which lies to the north of Australia, is the second largest island in the ‎world. The western part, which was formerly a Dutch colony, has belonged to ‎Indonesia since 1969, whilst the eastern side, which was a British and German colony for over ‎a century, became the independent state of Papua New Guinea in 1975. Over one thousand ‎languages are spoken there and the island contains a mix of very different cultural groups, ‎the descendants of communities that started to arrive in successive waves 40,000 years ago. ‎

Since its discovery by Portuguese sailors in the early 16th century, New Guinea has fascinated ‎the western world for its inhospitable, lush natural setting, which made it so hard to explore ‎the island, thus helping to conserve local traditions. ‎

The island’s natural backdrop, which has ensured its protection, has been an essential source ‎of food and materials generally (plant, animal and mineral based) for the local population, ‎allowing them to build houses and make objects for everyday or ritual use. In this context, ‎‎nature is understood to be the main linchpin on which New Guinea’s forms of ‎representation and symbols all hinge, including its musical practices .‎


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