I thought I had missed it. I quickly flung myself out of bed and grabbed my phone to check the time.. 4.30am.. I hear voices outside, I peeked out the window and can see the back lights of the car two houses down blinking red and the loud whispering “arut, arut” (hurry, hurry).
My ride down to the beach wasn’t leaving till 5am so thankfully I had a little time for a coffee. I sat on the verandah waiting for my lift. It was still dark and not a ray of sunshine had broken thru the dark blue sky. I could hear people pass by on the road below making their way to witness this beautiful rare event. I waited patiently.
Finally our ride came. As we got off at our destination I made my way quickly for the beach, I wasn’t surprised to see the area was already packed, local residents and tourist were patiently waiting. I focused my attention out to the ocean, I could just make out the sillouette of the canoe and the men sitting in it, and from the distance I could hear the loud distinct beating of the drums and cries of the Tubuans.
Nostalgia. I closed my eyes and was taken straight back to my childhood days in the village where you could hear the chanting and beating of the drums from the taraiu. The tubuan is a secretive men’s only society and the taraiu is a place where only those men and boys initiated into the society are allowed in. The Kinavai which is only performed at Dawn represents the Tolais travelling across the sea to East New Britain and it marks the beginning of the Mask Festival in July every year. The cries of the man on the beach interrupted my little daydream. He was signalling the canoes to come to the shore. The Tubuans and Dukduk are sacred and feared amongst the Tolais of East New Britain, they are symbolic of spirits and are very strongly respected. To this day they instill law and order in villages and a Tubuan or Dukduk sitting at your door step is not taken lightly.
I was very cautious as I made my way around the crowd, trying to get a good clear shot of the Tubuans disembarking from the canoes onto the beach. It is strongly forbidden for a female to be close to a Tubuan, this is one of the many cultural taboos in East New Britain, along with making noise or imitating the way they dance.
I stood and watched mezmerized by the strong proud display of culture before us. The Tumbuans & Dukduks danced till the sun broke thru the horizon… They then gathered and ran along the beach up to the showground to open the 2017 Rabaul Mask Festival.