Every year Tolai female tubuans give birth to groups of male dukduks. They appear together in Tolai villages during initiations and other ceremonies.
Dukduks die at the end of the ceremonial season. Female tubuans disappear until the next year when they give birth to more dukduks.
Tubuan and dukduk masks are made of barkcloth or mesh shaped over conical cane frameworks. Both have layered skirts of red and green leaves down to their knees. Tubuan masks are topped with tufts of feathers. The less important dukduk are faceless, but taller and have elaborately carved openwork wood peaks.(2)
Tubuan have large staring eyes and upturned mouths, but they are not friendly. Accompanied by the dukduks, they act as enforcers. They collect fines assessed against rule breakers and their relatives by the village elders. Traditional fines were paid with strings of shell money. Penalties for not paying up could include burning down an offender's house.
Clans sponsor tubuans which can be named for female ancestors or an owner's mother. Women are said to be the original owners of the tubuans in this matrilineal society. Women help their sons buy the rights to a tubuan and they participate in ceremonies where male novices purchase these rights with shell valuables.
Funerals for important men may include tubuans and dukduks. Staffs shaped like axes (pem) once had real blades and were used by the tubuan to chop up the deceased's house and garden to search for the departed spirit.
Funeral canoes with fine openwork designs called fish bones are carved and traded by Tolais in the Duke of York Group. These canoes are sometimes launched and burned. Families also sponsor feasts and distribute strings of shell money as part of the show of the deceased man's wealth.(3)
Tolai iniet secret societies made limestone initiation figures. Other carved figures and ceremonies either brought good luck to the society or sent sickness and death to their enemies.
Tolai masks (lorr) included two types using over-modeled human skulls. Another type is made of light wood or bark.
Wooden dance accessories use openwork carving with sawtooth edges. They include ornaments and wands called pokopoko. Some are carved in pairs (bair) which are held at shoulder height when dancing.
Links in this site:
(1) Tolai dukduk ceremony photos from the Ron and Ella Lucas collection taken in 1964 at Navunaram Village, about 10 miles out of Rabaul, by a Tamoringa policeman.
(2) Alternate spellings and terms for:
(3) The Tolai (Gunantuna) are thought to have started settling the Duke of York and Mioko Islands and southern New Ireland in the late 1700's. They displaced the Baining people from the lowlands of New Britain's Gazelle Peninsula.
(4) A young Tolai carver had a workshop near Rabaul before the volcano erupted in 1994. He had seen photos of Tolai carvings in European museums in books at the mission school and decided to try carving similar pieces. He and his apprentices were working on an exhibition for a European museum that included a large ceremonial canoe, kundu drums, masks and "house guard" figures.
Books used to research this series.
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Artifacts on this site were collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. Background in Who We Are. Art-Pacific has been on the WWW since 1996. We hope you enjoy our New Guinea tribal art and Indonesian folk art as much as we do.
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