KICKING off in July, the annual National Mask Festival was held in the coastal town of Kokopo in East New Britain from 15 to 19 July 2015.

Beginning at dawn with the arrival of the Kinavai the festival saw masked dancers called Tubuan Dukduks and elders from the Tolai tribe of East New Britain descending on the shore near Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort dancing and chanting.

Spectators are expected to observe respectfully from a distance, as the event is a sacred moment.

The event continued at the Ralum Showground near the Gazelle International Hotel, with a collection of cultural dances representing the three indigenous tribes of East New Britain performed which were the Tolai, Baining and Pomio.

Many dancers wore extraordinarily carved wooden masks and headpieces depicting spirits and clan totems, PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) said.

Cultural groups representing other provinces of Papua New Guinea were also given the opportunity to show their traditional dances in the final days of the festival.

TPA said residents and visitors were impressed with the festival performances.

The performance most popular for tourists was the Baining Fire Dance performed at night, where men from the Baining mountain tribe danced through a blazing bonfire as elders chanted hypnotically, TPA said.

In addition to the performances, the festival had food and display stalls with roofs that had traditional-styled gables and ornaments.

TPA said one of these featured a large traditional fishing trap made by Tolai master weaver ToUratun.

Organised by the East New Britain Provincial Government, the National Mask festival is held annually in mid-July.