mid to late 19th century
Papua New Guinea, New Britain, Gazelle Peninsula region
Tolai people
Wood, paint
H. 17 5/8 x W. 3 in. (44.8 x 7.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Evelyn A. J. Hall, 1981
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
Tolai people, New Britain, Papua New Guinea,
mid to late 19th century
Wood, paint
Gift of Evelyn A. J. Hall, 1981 (1981.331.3)
Ex coll.: Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany; collected by Paul Sandel in the 1880s

New Britain
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.
Paul Sandel; Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany; [Matthias Komor, New York]; Evelyn A. J. Hall, New York, until 1981