H. 50 1/4 x W. 17 x D. 9 1/2 in. (127.6 x 43.2 x 24.1 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The peoples of the island of New Britain northeast of New Guinea are remarkable for the scale and variety of their ritual arts, which include diverse forms of masks and other ceremonial paraphernalia. Many of the island’s largest and most spectacular art forms are made from ephemeral materials such as plant pith or bark cloth (a paper-like textile made from the inner bark of certain trees). For both day and night dances, the Baining of northern New Britain create imposing bark cloth masks, examples of which are on view here and in the adjoining case. The Sulka people and neighboring groups produce enormous, vividly colored headdresses and dance paraphernalia also made primarily from perishable materials, although some include durable wood elements. The Tolai people produce a variety of mask forms in wood and fiber as well as dance wands and other ritual paraphernalia. Contemporary New Britain peoples are predominantly Christian, but many of these ritual art forms continue to be created and used alongside, or as part of, Christian religious observances.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1953]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1953, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1978