Culture and History


East New Britain Province is rich with historical relics and sites that tell tales from WW1 and WW2, to when Christian missionaries first landed in the province,  and what Rabaul town was before the twin volcanic eruption in 1994.

From sites such as the German colonial cemetery,  to the Japanese Barge Tunnels, to Molot bridge where the first missionaries landed in Duke of York Island, to the ruins of old Rabaul Town; each sites story will captivate you.

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East New Britain is diverse and unique, and populated by six ethnic groups,

  1. Tolais,
  2. Duke of Yorks,
  3. Bainings,
  4. Pomios,
  5. Sulkas,
  6. and Taulils.

Each of these ethnic groups have their own cultural practices with some having more than one language spoken in their respective areas.

Their respective customs and traditions are still prevalent today, such as:

  • Bride price ceremonies using shell money called TABU as payment
  • Sharing of Tabu in time of death to show grief and gratitude 
  • Cultural initiations of boys into manhood in sacred sites
  • Traditional planting and harvesting of food crops based on cultural beliefs
  • Cultural dances that tell  stories passed down from generations

Three of the popular traditional dances still being practiced are the: 

Baining Fire Dance–This dance is a nocturnal dance, and one of the most mesmerizing cultural dances on earth. Huge bond fires are lit as dancers dance to the beat, tone, and tune of their people singing.

The dancers display during the dance pride, courage, and strength drawn from their dead ancestors by stamping on  and in the fire.

It displays a feat no ordinary man can do.


Tolai Tumbuan – The Tolai Tumbuan dances can be performed either night or day and is sacred and seasonal.

The dance consists of what is believed to be masked spirits dressed in traditional leaves and wear.

They don’t normally perform upon request. Guests are expected to fall into their schedule.

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Tolai Whip Dance – This dance varies by song and beat according to clans that dance it and consists of dancers enduring being whipped to show strength and courage drawn from their ancestors

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Apart from these three dances, East New Britain has many other cultural dances performed after long periods of preparation in sacred sites, drawing strength from ancestors who performed the dance during their time.

A good time to visit and experience the various cultural dances in East New Britain would be during the National Mask Festival held between the month of July and August every year for a period of one week.

To further deepen the experience of the unique East New Britain cultures, staying in a guest house in a village setting is the recommended way to go. Traditional huts with modern facilities, mobile phone coverage, good internet coverage, amongst  peaceful people, at a reasonable cost.

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