Chapter 3: THE FORESTS and FIRE: Tasim, Inverted Landscapes, and Tree Meanings

Introduction: “Trees” & places

Clump of Mangrove trees in a Kaylel in south central Muyuw

From 1996: Clump of Mangrove trees in a kaylel in South Central Muyuw

Canarium nuts resting in mud beneath mangrove roots in southcentral kaylel, excreted there by a bwaboun (probably a Pied Imperial Pigeon).

Canarium nuts resting in mud beneath mangrove roots in southcentral kaylel, excreted there by a bwaboun (probably a Pied Imperial Pigeon).

Canarium nuts single niniwous (Cryptocarya sp.) nut to the right from South Central Muyuw kaylel.

Canarium nuts and a single niniwous (Cryptocarya sp.) nut to the right from South Central Muyuw kaylel.

Places, “…kaynen”

Kadikulel soil. A typical view of what kadidulel plants look like. In the Muyuw understanding over-gardening has permanently changed these areas so they no longer go through normal fallow sequences. My impressions from 1982 to the present are that the Muyuw observations are correct, unlike most other places, these regions appear not to change over the years.

Kadidulel landscape. A typical view of what kadidulel plants look like. A type of pandanus tree called Yagal is towards the top right of the picture. In the Muyuw understanding over-gardening has permanently changed these areas so they no longer go through normal fallow sequences. My impressions from 1982 to the present are that the Muyuw observations are correct; unlike most other places, these regions appear not to change over the years.

Tasim

Classic Trobriand landscape, garden land mottled by usually single-standing trees.

Classic Trobriand landscape, garden land mottled by usually single-standing trees.

 

A Trobriand village surrounded by economically significant trees then extensive garden land.

A Trobriand village surrounded by economically significant trees then extensive garden land.

 

Trobriand landscape with Tawala(tawan in North Central Muyuw) with higher trees lining the higher eastern shoreline.

Trobriand landscape with Tawala (tawan in North Central Muyuw) with higher trees lining the higher eastern shoreline.

From 1996: Fenced garden area to the right virtually within the northern most of Iwa's two "villages," somewhat artificial concentration of houses.

From 1996: Fenced garden area to the right virtually within the northern most of Iwa’s two “villages,” somewhat artificial concentration of houses.

 

From January 1996: one of several pictures taken to show the sense of an Iwa "village" almost being experienced like a forest.

From January 1996: one of several pictures taken to show the sense of an Iwa “village” almost being experienced like a forest.

2006 aerial view of southeastern end of Muyuw looking west towards the Sulog mountains in the across the top center of the picture. The mottled look is largely from the intentional tasim orientation. Stretching to the top right is the area called Kweyakwoya much of which has not been occupied or gardened since the 1890s. One informant, Aisi, Dibolel and Sipum's father, told me that this whole area is a "sigob," a once burned and planted area however much most of it now is mottled or filled with high (40m+) forests.

2006 aerial view of southeastern end of Muyuw looking west towards the Sulog mountains across the top center of the picture. The mottled look is largely from the intentional tasim orientation. Stretching to the top right is the area called Kweyakwoya much of which has not been occupied or gardened since the 1890s. One informant, Aisi, Dibolel and Sipum’s father, told me that this whole area is a “sigob,” a once burned and planted area however much most of it now is mottled or filled with high (40m+) forests.

 

An shot of southeastern Muyuw forests and gardens with clumps of higher forests, tasim, breaking the lower areas lying in fallow.

A shot of southeastern Muyuw gardens and forests  with clumps of higher forests, tasim, breaking the lower areas lying in fallow. The picture is five or so miles west of the preceding picture looking south into the area Wabunun and some hamlets west of it cut and plant. The higher forest in the foreground has undoubtedly been cut but not in a long time and never repeatedly. North of where the picture ends leads into to what was the western extension of Kweyakwoya. Long, long ago it was settled.

 

Kwadoy – the Woodlark cuscus (Phalanger lullulae), from Nasikwabw, 2002. The Nasikwabw kwadoy are said to taste much more bitter than those found on Muyuw because they eat more from Nasikwabw’s kausilay, (Calophyllum leleanii p.f. stevens) rather than gwed and other early fallow trees found amongst more serious gardening villages on Muyuw's main island.

Kwadoy – the Woodlark cuscus (Phalanger lullulae), from Nasikwabw, 2002. The Nasikwabw kwadoy are said to taste much more bitter than those found on Muyuw because they eat more from Nasikwabw’s kausilay, (Calophyllum leleanii p.f. stevens) rather than gwed and other early fallow trees found among more serious gardening villages on Muyuw’s main island. Kausilay are a tasim tree and the difficult water situation on Nasikwabw probably makes much of the island tasim-like: even minor droughts lead to losses of trees thus opening up the conditions favorable for kausilay growth.

Sinasops and Demia Vek/Dum–the inverted landscapes of the sago orchard system

Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: … Inverted Landscapes: The Creator’s Sago Tree in Bungalau sinasop/meadow.

From 2002: The Creator’s Sago Tree in Bungalau sinasop/meadow. This tree’s immediate predecessor stands to the right.

 

From 2009: Alanay Lituk(stream) meandering through mangrove swamps proximate to sago orchards. Waters flowing from and through the meadow Bungalau feed this stream. At least four species of ocean fish regularly swim up this stream, some appearing in the hole in the Kweybok region called Nabulkwakwit.

From 2009: Alanay Lituk(stream) meandering through mangrove swamps proximate to sago orchards. Waters flowing from and through the meadow Bungalau feed this stream. At least four species of ocean fish regularly swim up this stream, some appearing in the hole in the Kweybok region called Nabulkwakwit.

 

From 2014: Looking down to Nabulkwakwit, the reputed source for Alanay stream. It is within a few hundred meters of the northwestern end of the Bungalau meadow. Species of fish found in tidal waters often swim up to this point. Are the nearby meadows open windows to more easily catch rain for streams such as Alanay?

From 2014: Looking down to Nabulkwakwit, the reputed source for Alanay stream. It is within a few hundred meters of the northwestern end of the Bungalau meadow. Species of fish found in tidal waters often swim up to this point. Are the nearby meadows open windows to more easily catch rain for streams such as Alanay?

 

2002 Looking to the eastern “base”(wowun) end of Bungalau sinasop under the Creator's sago tree. The first line of high tree growth consists of sago trees lying in swamps just outside of the meadow. Towering above them and further to the east is a single Calophyllum tree of the kind Muyuw call Dan with its typical Christmas-tree shape. There it “kayamat,” ‘waits on’ the sago trees beneath it.

2002: Looking to the eastern “base”(wowun) end of Bungalau sinasop under the Creator’s sago tree. The first line of high tree growth consists of sago trees lying in swamps just outside of the meadow. Towering above them and further to the east is a single Calophyllum tree of the kind Muyuw call Dan with its typical Christmas-tree shape. There it “kayamat,” ‘waits on’ the sago trees beneath it.

From 2009: Along with the swelling evident before it flowers and fruits and the way new trees bud off the base of a mature sago tree, the spines found on most Muyuw sago trees give the plant what Muyuw consider to be female characteristics. Over my four years on the island more than once some man returned early from the sago swamps because of a wound, which then became infected, from these spines.

From 2009: Along with the swelling evident before it flowers and fruits and the way new trees bud off the base of a mature sago tree, the spines found on most Muyuw sago trees give the plant what Muyuw consider to be female characteristics. Over my four years on the island more than once some man returned early from the sago swamps because of a wound, which then became infected, from these spines.

Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: … Inverted Landscapes: Sago pounder, labus, standing inside a split open sago tree.

2002. With a sago pounder, labus, standing inside a split open sago tree turning the center of the tree into a course, flaky sawdust.

Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: … Inverted Landscapes: Sago production; pouring water into the sago mash.

2002: Sago production; pouring water into the sago mash from the nearby Sinkwalay River.

 

From 2007, in a production site too far from the Alanay stream to get water from there so simply pulled from the water table which is virtually at ground level. A slight indentation was made in the ground. There is much sand near this portion of the Alanay river, sand that was probably extracted for making pottery when Muyuw people were also potters, perhaps 500 or more years ago. Sago from this area is often said to taste gritty, though good, from the sand of the region. The pile of worked sago sawdust is behind the producer.

From 2006, in a production site too far from the Alanay stream to get water from there so simply pulled from the water table which is virtually at ground level. A slight indentation was made in the ground. There is much sand near this portion of the Alanay river region, sand that was probably extracted for making pottery when Muyuw people were also potters, perhaps 500 or more and 2500 years ago. Sago from this area is often said to taste gritty, though good, from the sand of the region. The pile of worked sago sawdust is behind the producer.

Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: … Inverted Landscapes: Sago production close-up of sieve-like structure.

Sago production close-up of sieve-like structure.

From 2007: Elam, a young Kubay man from Wabunun kneading sago mash to separate the carbohydrates from the chipped and shaved material. Once water is poured on the mash there is a strenuous pushing --a thrusting of the man's whole body into the mash-- and wringing for separating the carbohydrates from the chipped, shaved and splintered sago material. He considers the contraption he is working on to be feminine, he is the male source of power, the sago filling the trough below him the child/product of this particular female/male combination.

From 2006: Elam, a young Kubay man from Wabunun kneading sago mash to separate out the carbohydrates. Once water is poured on the mash there is a strenuous pushing –a thrusting of the man’s whole body into the mash– and wringing for separating the carbohydrates from the chipped, shaved and splintered sago material. He considers the contraption he is working on to be feminine, he is the male source of power, the sago filling the trough below him the child/product of this particular female/male combination.

From 2002: Packing sago into a flour bag…the common way of transporting the material now. As the liquid flows from the frond into the trough it gradually separates, the sago flour sinking to the bottom, the water eventually spilling over the sides of the trough.

From 2002: Packing sago into a flour bag…the common way of transporting the material now. As the liquid flows from the frond into the trough it gradually separates, the sago flour sinking to the bottom, the water eventually spilling over the sides of the trough.

From 2009: Talibonas from Kaulay village in North Central Muyuw, Wamwan, my primary Kaulay host from 1996 on. He holds leleiy amidst signavan in the central Muyuw sinasop, meadow, called Diguwamwan, South of Kaulay.

From 2009: Talibonas from Kaulay village in North Central Muyuw, Wamwan, my primary Kaulay host from 1996 on. He holds leleiy amidst signavan in the central Muyuw sinasop, meadow, called Diguwamwan, South of Kaulay.

 

Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: … Inverted Landscapes: Henry from Kaulay village amidst kokoyit (sasi in Wamwan) in Diguwamwan, South of Kaulay in Central Muyuw in 2009.

Talibonas’s son Henry from Kaulay village amidst kokoyit (sasi in Wamwan) in Diguwamwan, South of Kaulay in Central Muyuw in 2009. Kokoyit is the fern from which dark inner bands are extracted for making the bands used to encircle various parts of the body.

 Diguwamwan meadow in Central Muyuw with Mt. Kabat, the moral center of the island, rising up in the top center of the picture. As can be seen, this area has recently been burned. All sago orchards near this meadow were down slope from it and several very close to it.

Diguwamwan meadow in Central Muyuw with Mt. Kabat, the moral center of the island, rising up in the top center of the picture. As can be seen, this area has recently been burned. All sago orchards near this meadow were down slope from it and several very close to it.

From 2002, burning the western end of Bungalau during the dry period of the minor ENSO of that time. It was not dry enough for the fire to spread to the eastern side of Bungalau. By 2009 the burnt area looked like the unburned areas to the right.

From 2002, burning the western end of Bungalau during the dry period of the minor ENSO of that time. It was not dry enough for the fire to spread to the eastern side of Bungalau. By 2009 the burnt area looked like the unburned areas to the right. By 2014 it was all but impossible to move through the place because the vegetation was so dense.

2009 Kokoyit drying in above the fire/cooking place in Talibonas's house in Kaulay village, Central Muyuw. This vine-like fern is frequently found and gathered from meadows, then dried in rafters until it needs to be used for tying various parts of outrigger canoes.

2009 Koliu drying in above the fire/cooking place in Talibonas’s house in Kaulay village, Central Muyuw. This vine-like fern is frequently found and gathered from meadows, then dried in rafters until it needs to be used for tying various parts of outrigger canoes.

From 2007: Packing sago leaflets into a form that will eventually be bundled and carried to the village for roofing or siding material. Sipum carefully stacked sago leaflets to conform to a male (up) female (down) pattern that will eventually be bundled and carried to the village for roofing or siding material. Men sense women watching over their work and ready to scowl at them should they find the leaflets not packed for the most efficient removal when they are sewn onto a rack, a couple of meters long, to be used for a house roof or side.

From 2006: Packing sago leaflets into a form for roofing or siding material. Sipum carefully stacked sago leaflets to conform to a male (up) female (down) pattern that will eventually be bundled and carried to the village for roofing or siding material. Men sense women watching over their work and ready to scowl at them should they find the leaflets not packed for the most efficient removal when they are sewn onto a rack, a couple of meters long, to be used for a house roof or side.

From 2009: a rotting and pig-eaten upper part of a sago trunk, split open worked, ravaged by “wild pigs” then left to rot to facilitate the next generation of growth.

From 2009: a rotting upper part of a sago trunk, split open, worked, ravaged by “wild pigs” then left to rot to facilitate the next generation of growth.

Trees and the Construction of Social Discontinuity

Cris-crossing poiyi structure viewed from the intersection at the top-center of the house created with the akidus tree (Rubiaceae). For the same reasons it is used for this house part, balancing dangerous wind dynamics by virtue of its arcing form, this well-known old forest tree plays an equally prominent and well-known role in the anageg class of outrigger described in Chapter 7.

Crisscrossing poiyi structure viewed from the intersection at the top-center of the house created with the akidus tree (Rubiaceae). For the same reasons it is used for this house part, balancing dangerous wind dynamics by virtue of its arcing form, this well-known old forest tree plays an equally prominent and well-known role in the anageg class of outrigger described in Chapter 7.

From 2002: the three kavavis carried by the anageg Levanay. Composed only of meik/ Intsia bijuga, the rudder-like structure used to steer the largest class of outrigger. Most boats sail with three, two well-formed, a third used only if one of the first two snap from the force of a wave. Women are likened to kavavis for their analogous role in houses –directing its course given divergent forces. The looming trees in the upper left background are Kiyay/Yay trees, Casurina littorale sp. once common on Muyuw shorelines now clustered at Wabunun’s eastern boundary.

From 2002: the three kavavis carried by the anageg Levanay. Composed only of meik/ Intsia bijuga, the rudder-like structure used to steer the largest class of outrigger. Most boats sail with three, two well-formed, a third used only if one of the first two snap from the force of a wave. Women are likened to kavavis for their analogous role in houses –directing its course given divergent forces. It is widely known that the tree used for making kavavis is the ritual firewood for Koyagaugau and Ole, the northern most island in the Lolomon/Bwanabwana group. The looming trees in the upper left background are Kiyay/Yay trees, Casurina littorale sp. once common on Muyuw shorelines now clustered at Wabunun’s eastern boundary.

 

 

 

From 1996, a Kaulay, north central Muyuw yamhouse constructed with gwed sol, the two beams running across the two sets of uprights holding up the structure. The lighter quality of the construction materials makes it easy for four men to left the container structure off its four posts and carry it the short distance to a new garden for storing the next year's yams.

From 1996, a Kaulay, north central Muyuw, yamhouse constructed with gwed sol, the two beams running across the two sets of uprights holding up the structure. The lighter quality of the construction materials makes it easy for four men to left the container structure off its four posts and carry it the short distance to a new garden for storing the next year’s yams.

 

Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: .. and Tree Meanings: Iwa yamhouse framed with trees designed to last from one year to the next, though the structure is re-enclosed every year before it is ritually loaded with new prestations of yams.

From 1996: Iwa yamhouse framed with trees designed to last from one year to the next, though the structure is re-enclosed every year before it is ritually loaded with new prestations of yams. Pandauns leaves or woven coconut fronds form the usual covering.

 

 

6b Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: .. and Tree Meanings: An atuwaman (Chionanthus ramiflorus (Rox.)) stored proximate to a house while materials are assembled for a small ritual.

Atuwaman (Chionanthus ramiflorus (Rox.)) stored proximate to a house while materials are assembled for a small ritual (For Sipum’s second deceased son, 2002.). This is in Wabunun where Atuwaman is the ritual firewood. Firewood is regularly stored under houses but only tends to be exclusively Atuwaman in Wabunun when it is to be used for a ritual.

 

6a Chapter 4 THE FORESTS: .. and Tree Meanings: An atuwaman (Chionanthus ramiflorus (Rox.)) girdled (isel wowun), in a recently cleared digadag forest to speed up it availability for a prestation.

1996: An atuwaman (Chionanthus ramiflorus (Rox.)) girdled (isel wowun), in a recently cleared digadag forest to speed up its availability for a prestation.

Vekwaya, my primary Kaulay (North Central Muyuw) teacher from 1974 to 1995 standing next to a bundle of Mamina (Syzygium sp.) bark, Kaulay’s ritual firewood.

Vekwaya, my primary Kaulay (North Central Muyuw) teacher from 1974 to 1995 standing next to a bundle of Mamina (Syzygium sp.) bark, Kaulay’s ritual firewood.

 

 

January 1996,On Iwa: Tawaku (Terminalia megalocarpa) nuts from one of the island’s two ritual firewood trees. These nuts have been cooked, in an earth oven, and are now being prepared for soaking in the ocean for several days before they will be eaten

January 1996,On Iwa: Tawaku (Terminalia megalocarpa) nuts from one of the island’s two ritual firewood trees. These nuts have been cooked, in an earth oven, and are now being prepared for soaking in the ocean for several days before they can be eaten

 

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