PNG National Mask Festival day three

The third day and last day for me of this five day festival celebrating the cultures of New Britain in northeast Papua New Guinea. After two days of mask dances today featured other traditional dances from the region. A theme was singing up to a pitch where their voices nearly, but never quite, broke. Unlike the previous days the dancers did a lot more of the singing, somewhat easier without wearing an elaborate wooden or bark mask. The music was very repetitive but hypnotically so.

The opening group were from Talvat, first sighting of distinctive green faces.

Next up a group from Rabaul.

A group from Butuwin performing the Awtung dance brought out the kids and stamina for an impressive 15 minute performance.

The Baai Cultural Group for the Akulau dance had the most elaborate hand objects I’d seen so far, making a contrast from the usual plants held.

A Rangagi group performing the Apalang dance had some of the most elaborate costumes of the day.

A Karavi group performing the Apinpidik dance featured more green faces.

The variety continued with another Apinpidik dance by a group from Matalau.

Over lunch I bought this rather magical Sepik mask made of milky pine, representing a Papa Kela, or bald headed man.

I returned to see the Tagi-Tagi dance by a group from Matupit.

The loudest and longest (over 20 minutes) drumming of the day belonged to a group from Malaguna performing the Alibung dance. They had a number of school kids in the group, and some drummers wearing sun glasses.

A group from Namuk performed the Aparpari / Atepelin dance, complete with more green faced kids.

Rakunat from Rabaul performed a Koko dance in what would be effective camouflage.

The Abatung dance by a group from Gunanba was the only one in which any explanation was given. Almost all the dances relate to the men’s secret society, which they don’t share with anyone, locals or tourists. Was a shame to see their culture but not to be able to understand it more than taking photographs and watching the dances.

Another group from Gunanba performed the Akuka dance, after some more whipping.

The day was meant to finish with one group from Waragol but three turned up. The groups are brought in from the villages on the back of trucks organised by the festival. There were two male dances, and the only female dance of the 50 dances performed over the three days I was there. They seemed very reluctant to finish despite requests of the organisers, particularly when yet another group from another tribal group turned up.


The final group from Bitapaka arrived to perform Kipang. The programme for the whole festival was loosely followed in both order and content. I can’t guarantee that the names of the dances, or even the groups, is 100% accurate as even the announcer didn’t seem to know who was performing!

Author: jontycrane

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