Rabaul's Mask Festival

The exotic Mask Festival in Rabaul takes place in mid-July each year and gives visitors to East New Britain a chance to witness a wide range of cultural dancing, singsings, ritual performance, display and story-telling - with a variety of arts and crafts also on display. The festival was initially introduced into the local calendar in 1995 and began as an event for the Tolai people of the Gazelle Peninsula. It has now expanded to take in all of East New Britain's varied cultures and language groups, so includes the Baining, Pomio and Sulka people, but is also staged as a national event to promote the unique mask cultures of East New Britain to a wider audience. 

The National Mask Festival & Warwagira, to give the festival its formal name, takes place over four days in Kokopo, East New Britain, and is split into two main parts with the Mask Festival itself covering the first two days. This starts at dawn on the first day with the 'Kinavai' which is the arrival of the Tolai Tubuans in canoes, chanting and beating their kundu drums. On these initial days there will also be spectacular Baining Fire Dances from the Baining people of mainland East New Britain. The second part of the festival is devoted to the Warwagira which includes outstanding contributions in costume and dance from other parts of Papua New Guinea. Throughout the festival you will see a variety of different masks & costumes, many of which are ancient, from around the region.

In 2023 the Mask Festival takes place from 12 to 16 July, and is a riotous celebration of the indigenous culture in East New Britain. Not to be missed if you are in the vicinity during mid-July!

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