TITLE: Baining Asaraigi Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: East New Britain Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Baining)
DESCRIPTION: Uramot Asaraigi Mask
CEREMONY: Day Dance
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: tapa cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: bamboo, vines; pigment from chewed roots and coconut husk ash
The Baining people live in eastern New Britain Island area known as the Gazelle Peninsula, in a mountainous tropical forest. They are a Melanesian people closely akin to other groups in Papua New Guinea. They traditionally live in small villages with dispersed political authority. The Baining use their masks to unify the otherwise dispersed villagers, usually in celebrations of major events such as yam harvest, births, deaths, or adult initiation for both boys and girls. Some dances are for the day time, mostly those centered around female tasks such as sowing, harvesting, and births. Night dances center around male activities such as hunting.
The masks are mostly made of mulberry or breadfruit tree bark mashed and pounded into a cloth (“tapa cloth”) over bamboo frames. Unlike most masking cultures, they make these masks specifically to be burned or discarded after the ceremony. This specific mask, the asairigi, is used in day dances by the Uramot group of Baining people. The black triangles represent tears of the spirit represented by the mask. Day dance masks are made cooperatively by both men and women.