Festivals, Life, & Culture

At the National Mask Festival in Kokopo, tubuans from the Pomio area of East New Britain swirl their leaf body costumes and sway their brightly painted woven mask head coverings.

Two big festivals dominate the year in East New Britain — the National Mask and Warwagira Festival, and the Frangipani Festival which highlight the variegated culture and history of the New Guinea Islands.

Many tourists plan their Papua New Guinea visits around these major festivals.

Tapa cloth on bamboo frame masks, great painted eyes, and duck bill-like mouth are features of many of the fire dance custumes from the Bainings mountains in East New Britain. Representing forest spirits, the participants dance through a fire and cavort to a driving beat from drums and bamboos.

National Mask and Warwagira Festival

We look forward to the next National Mask and Warwagira Festival in July 2015.

The Frangipani Festival will be held in Rabaul over the Independence Day weekend, Saturday to Monday 13-14 September and Independence Day itself, Tuesday 16 September.

These festivals provide visitors and residents alike with an opportunity to see and be involved in a wide range of cultural expressions, singsings, displays, and demonstrations. See Pictures of Paradise for more examples of what you will see at the National Mask and Warwagira Festival and the Frangipani Festival.

The Warwagira, as its name implies, began as an event for the Tolai people of the Gazelle Peninsula but now it has expanded to take in all of East New Britain's varied cultures and language groups. The National Mask Festival still focuses on the New Guinea Islands but also draws outstanding contributions in costume and dance from other parts of Papua New Guinea.

Frangipani Festival

The Frangipani Festival is named for Rabaul's signature bloom. It was conceived as a celebration of the rebirth of Rabaul town after the 1994 eruptions. While more than three quarters of the town still has not recovered, and much of it never will, there are signs of life everywhere in the reborn and rebuilding Rabaul.

Seeing the devastated and the recovered and new side by side is fascinating for visitors and residents alike.

The festival starts with a float parade, then moves on to dance, singsings, and paua (rock) bands in Rabaul on Saturday, commemorative Church service on Sunday, then a canoe race around the Dawapia (the two rocks poking up in the middle of the harbor also known as the Beehives) on Independence Day. It is a time of fun for everyone, participants and spectators alike.

A round up of  tradition: shark tubuans from the Sepik, an elder distributes “tambu” (shell money) to performers, a Tolai tubuan and support band, masked dancers a wman dancer with white painted face and dot panels, women singers in string costumers, and a Japanese tourist get his picture.
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