Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Mask (Kavat)

Papua New Guinea, New Britain
Kairak Baining people
Bamboo, barkcloth, paint
H. 52 x W. 10 x D. 29 in. (132.1 x 25.4 x 73.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of George and Sarah Corbin, 2005
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
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 mask exhibited here is surmounted by a triangular form representing the shoulder bone of a pig.
Collected in New Britain by George Corbin, between 1972 and 1973; George and Sarah Corbin, New York, by 1973–2005

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 77.

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