The dramatic bark cloth kavat masks created by Central Baining peoples are used exclusively in the night dance, a nocturnal performance lit by firelight. The Central Baining practice both day dance and night dance rites. The day dance, accompanied by an orchestra of women, is devoted to female fertility, agriculture, and the mourning of the dead, phenomena typically associated with the community. The night dance, by contrast, is accompanied by a male orchestra and dedicated to spirits, animals, and commodities associated with the surrounding forest, which are represented by the kavat masks. Several dozen forms of kavat masks exist, each of which depicts a spirit linked with a specific animal, plant, product, or activity associated with the forest. The split top of this mask indicates that it likely represents a spirit associated with the forks of trees.
Collected in New Britain by George Corbin, in 1972 or 1973; George and Sarah Corbin, New York, by 1973–2004
Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 78.