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Tolai tubuan and dukduk masks, East New Britain Province, PNG

[Two Tolai wearing conical duk duk masks topped with elaborate openwork wood peaks: 24k]

Every year Tolai female tubuans give birth to groups of male dukduks. They appear together in Tolai villages during initiations and other ceremonies.

Dukduks die at the end of the ceremonial season. Female tubuans disappear until the next year when they give birth to more dukduks.

[Small black wood carving of Tolai tubuan dancer: 6k]

Figure 1: Male dukduks of the Tolai dukduk society. Photo courtesy of the Ron and Ella Lucas collection. (1)

Figure 2: Female tubuan carving detailed with white lime, red and green store paint.

Tubuan and dukduk masks are made of barkcloth or mesh shaped over conical cane frameworks. Both have layered skirts of red and green leaves down to their knees. Tubuan masks are topped with tufts of feathers. The less important dukduk are faceless, but taller and have elaborately carved openwork wood peaks.(2)

Tubuan have large staring eyes and upturned mouths, but they are not friendly. Accompanied by the dukduks, they act as enforcers. They collect fines assessed against rule breakers and their relatives by the village elders. Traditional fines were paid with strings of shell money. Penalties for not paying up could include burning down an offender's house.


[Long line of Tolai dancers wearing conical tubuan and duk duk masks: 39k]

Figure 3: Four tubuan in ceremonial lineup with their dukduk children, Navunaram Village near Rabaul, 1964. Photo courtesy of the Ron and Ella Lucas collection.


[Tolai leader banishing coil of cane whips at a tubuan to keep it under control: 22k]

Figure 4: Tolai man banishing cane whip at a tubuan. A leader's strength is measured by his ability to control the wild tubuans. Photo courtesy of the Ron and Ella Lucas collection.

Clans sponsor tubuans which can be named for female ancestors or an owner's mother. Women are said to be the original owners of the tubuans in this matrilineal society. Women help their sons buy the rights to a tubuan and they participate in ceremonies where male novices purchase these rights with shell valuables.

[Detail of Tolai duk duk mask with carved openwork snake motif peak: 15k]

Figure 5: Dukduk cane and basketry mask topped with carved snake motifs. Photo courtesy of the Ron and Ella Lucas collection.

Funerals for important men may include tubuans and dukduks. Staffs shaped like axes (pem) once had real blades and were used by the tubuan to chop up the deceased's house and garden to search for the departed spirit.

Funeral canoes with fine openwork designs called fish bones are carved and traded by Tolais in the Duke of York Group. These canoes are sometimes launched and burned. Families also sponsor feasts and distribute strings of shell money as part of the show of the deceased man's wealth.(3)

[Tolai black and white smiling face mask topped with black and white figure, both with reddish raffia hair and beards: 11k]

Figure 6: Tolai mask with figure similar to the marawot figures of the iniet society. Photo courtesy of a private collection.

Tolai iniet secret societies made limestone initiation figures. Other carved figures and ceremonies either brought good luck to the society or sent sickness and death to their enemies.

[Iniet male chalk figure with serrated edge surround: 11k]

Figure 7: Iniet limestone figure collected early 1970s by Morris Young, formerly collection of Thomas Burns. Photo courtesy of a private collection.

Tolai masks (lorr) included two types using over-modeled human skulls. Another type is made of light wood or bark.

Wooden dance accessories use openwork carving with sawtooth edges. They include ornaments and wands called pokopoko. Some are carved in pairs (bair) which are held at shoulder height when dancing.

Figure 8 (below): Tolai aingal figure with real teeth in its mouth. The carver said its function is to scare off evil spirits from the house. Photo courtesy of a private collection.(4)


[Human figure with grey and black striped caterpillar-like body, yellow nose, ears, elbows and knees: 7k]

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Books used to research this series.


More articles/photos of NEW GUINEA MASKS:

Middle Sepik River | Angoram | Kambaramba | Tambanum | Hunstein | Imbando and Taway | Mumeri | Blackwater River | Lower Ramu River | Middle Ramu River | basket yam masks | wooden yam masks | Baining | Sulka | Tolai dukduk | Malagan | Papuan Gulf | Gogodala | String and Things | Skin as Ground... | more INDONESIAN MASKS: Bali and Java | Dyak

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Artifacts on this site are collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. More background in Who We Are. Art-Pacific has been on the WWW since 1996. We hope you enjoy our New Guinea tribal art and Indonesian folk art as much as we do. Carolyn Leigh, P.O. Box 85284, Tucson, AZ 85754-5284 USA, Art-Pacific at http://www.art-pacific.com/