May 6, 2015

1567 PAPUA NEW GUINEA (East New Britain) - The Warwagira & Mask Festival

The Warwagira & Mask Festival was introduced in 1995 and is staged in Kokopo as an annual national event to promote the Mask Cultures of East New Britain, New Ireland and other areas in PNG where masks are significant projections of cultural expression. The festival is a five-day extravaganza of cultural dancing, ritual performance, display, story-telling and exchange - with a variety of arts and crafts. Some of the masks are many decades old, and many of them are sacred. They aren't meant to be viewed or transported to alien places, hence the ceremonial Kinavai, which acts as a cleansing or appeasement ritual for the broken taboos and to pay respects to the Tolai people.

The festival opens at dawn, with the Kinavai, which represents the arrival of the feared tubuans amidst the chanting and beating of Kundu drums by elders and initiated young men on canoes. The Tubuans are revered ancestral spirits of the Tolai people. On the third day, take place the Whip dances, a form of initiation for young men  Those whipped have the bodies heavily painted, and a lot of leaf mixed in their oiled hair. The highlight of the festival is the Bainings Fire Dancers, traditionally a men-only event. The origin of these ceremonies was to celebrate the birth of new children, the commencement of harvests and also a way of remembering the dead. It is also a rite of passage for initiating young men into adulthood. 

The Tolai are the indigenous people of the Gazelle Peninsula and the Duke of York Islands of East New Britain. Ethnically close kin to the peoples of adjacent New Ireland, are thought to have migrated to the Gazelle Peninsula in relatively recent times, displacing the Baining people who were driven westwards. The majority of them speak Kuanua as their first language. Notwithstanding the Christianization of the Tolais for more than a century, old beliefs and traditions still persist, e.g., the belief in the female spirits of the Tubuans with secret ceremonies performed by initiates of the Duk-Duk society as well as the belief in sorcery to either gain someone's love or to punish an enemy.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Woven baskets, issued on August 9, 2013:
• Pepeni (yam basket) (1,30 PGK)
• Common 'tolai' carry basket (1,30 PGK)
• Carry basket (6,00 PGK) - It's on the postcard
• Carry baskets (8,70 PGK)

Tolai people - Wikipedia
Mask Festival - Papua New Guinea Travel
Behind Papua New Guinea’s Mask - Travel Associates
The Tolai - My Year of Muumuu

Sent from ??? (Papua New Guinea), on ??.11.2014


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You have really very nice blog in which there is authentic description when you are talking about Papua New Guinea travel . Please keep updating us with your views and Thanks for sharing such informative post.

    Scenic tours | Trafalgar tours | Cosmos tours