Production date
Papua New Guinea
East New Britain
See full details

Object detail

Mask made of bark cloth stretched on rattan/bark frame. Bark painted black and red with organic pigment and lime. Mask depicts face, with painted eyes and moulded mouth.
CH classification INDIGENOUS CULTURES Melanesian & South Sea Islander mask
Production date
L465 x H732 x W426 mm
Media/Materials description
Black and red pigment, lime, bark cloth, rattan framework/cane.
History and use
Previously adorned to inaugurate initiation ceremonies, Kavat masks are now also worn to commemorate Christian holidays, the National Holiday or to celebrate the completion of community building projects. Usually performed during the evening, the bodies of the dancers are blackened, penis coverings adorned and puttees are wound around their calves and whitened with lime.

During the dance, the appropriate spirit is summoned by the rhythmic beating of bamboo and the sound of chanting and is introduced as the dancers emerge one by one from the bush. Such spirits, though dangerous, are perceived as ‘guests’, to spend a night in the village to propitiate them so that they may then be driven off.

Following the masked festivities, the dancers are then dismissed from the dance arena by special songs and the dance ground is ritually cleansed. The masks, with some exceptions, are then torn up and their dancers have taken leave.

Uploaded to the Web 27 May 2011.
Registration number


My shortlist


Explore other objects by colour