Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Dance Wand (Bair)

late 19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, New Britain
Tolai people
Wood, paint, feathers, shell, fiber
H. 37 in. (94 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal, 1984
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
The Tolai people of northern New Britain create a great variety of ceremonial paraphernalia known collectively as pokopoko, which are worn or carried during dances and other performances. This work is a dance wand (bair). Bair are carried in pairs by men during a dance known as kulau (young coconut). However, the name of these objects changes with their context. They are called bair only when in
use. When not in use, they are kept inside a sacred house and are called simply pokopoko (ceremonial paraphernalia). Bair and other dance accessories are made, or designed, by tena buai, men and women initiated into the sacred knowledge of music. The central images represent spirits (tabalivana). The spirit image is often highly stylized but must include at least one recognizable anatomical feature, such as eyes or a limb. In this wand, the spirit is shown nearly complete, with prominent eyes, a slender body, flexed legs, and out-turned feet with numerous delicate toes.
Heinrich Fellmann, Raluana, German New Guinea, collected 1897–1911; Milton and Frieda Rosenthal, Harrison, NY, until1984

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 92, 156-7.

Related Objects

Mask (Lor [?])

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint, fiber Accession: 1978.412.1514 On view in:Gallery 354

Mask (Kavat)

Date: 1972 or 1973 Medium: Bamboo, barkcloth, paint Accession: 2004.552.1 On view in:Gallery 354

Ritual Board (Wenena gerua)

Date: ca. 1950 Medium: Wood, paint, feathers, fiber Accession: 1978.412.741 On view in:Gallery 354


Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint, fiber Accession: 1979.206.1555 On view in:Gallery 354

Headdress (Kapurei [?])

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1981.331.1 On view in:Gallery 354