Entering The Flames
These firedancers belong to a Papua New Guinean tribe known as the Baining. They live on the northeastern tip of the island of New Britain which is found off the west coast of Papua New Guinea.
The Baining tribes get their name from the Baining mountains which they inhabit. Their language is also called Baining of which their are a few different dialects. It is thought that the Baining people may have inhabited this area for thousands of years.
The Baining are somewhat of an of an oddity amongst Melanesian cultures because they create art forms that have a very ephemeral existence. The mask you see in the picture above is laboriously made from bark cloth, bamboo and leaves and used just once for the firedance ceremony before being thrown away or destroyed.
The origin of these firedance ceremonies was to celebrate the birth of new children; the commencement of harvests and also a way of remembering the dead. The Baining firedance is also a right of passage for initiating young men into adulthood. The fire dance is a totally male event and traditionally the Baining women and children do not take part in it or even watch it.