The masks of the Duke of York Islands, between New Britain and New Ireland, are part of a broader masking tradition that originally extended from southern New Ireland to the Tolai people of northern New Britain. Known by variants of the name lor, which means skull in Tolai, the masks have white faces with mouths that often appear to be smiling. The significance of lor masks in the Duke of York Islands is uncertain, but they likely played similar roles to those of Tolai, where the tradition persists. Today, Tolai lor masks are worn by performers in a dance called tambaran kakao (spirit that crawls). The masks reportedly represent a spirit that comes to a local leader in dreams and reveals the details of dance paraphernalia and choreography.
Raymond and Laura Wielgus, Chicago; William Struve, Glenview, Ill., until 1967; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1967–1978
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 61.
The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 119.
Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 93.
Corbin, George and Sarah. East New Britain. 1999, p. 264.
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, 93, 158.