Chapter 4: A STORY OF CALOPHYLLUM: From Ecological to Social Facts

“One way indeed in which signs can be opposed to concepts is that whereas concepts aim to be wholly transparent with respect to reality, signs allow and even require the interposing and incorporation of a certain amount of human culture into reality. Signs, in Peirce’s vigorous phrase, ‘address somebody’” (Claude Levi-Strauss, 1966: 20).

“Part of the problem faced by ethnobiologists was that they were narrowly comparing Linnaean taxonomy with particular folk … domains and not looking at language more broadly… These are all cognitive processes (means, agents, instruments) which help us first comprehend the world and then negotiate our way through it. They do so by acting on and through existing sets of beliefs or representations (the medium) and influencing the generation of new ones; indeed, they are the co-ordinates which determine how much of what comprises belief is expressed and represented.” (Roy Ellen 2006: 176, 185).

INTRODUCTION

2009. My son, David Dibolel Damon, standing next to the largest Kakam, Calophyllum Inophyllum I've seen to date. On the north coast west of Kaulay's lagoon.

2009. My son, David Dibolel Damon, standing next to the largest Kakam, Calophyllum Inophyllum, I’ve seen to date. On the north coast west of Kaulay’s lagoon at a place called Ulgulag, the location of a strange grove of kausilay.

 

Early 2002: A recently pruned Kakam at near one of Gawa’s main landings. Many of its branches had just been removed for an outrigger canoe Gawan people were making for people from Iwa.

Early 2002: A recently pruned Kakam  near one of Gawa’s main landings. Many of its branches had just been removed for an outrigger canoe Gawan people were making for people from Iwa.

From 2006, a landing near the sago swamps and orchards in South Central Muyuw, showing how a Kakam tree's roots are understood to support the shoreline.

From 2006, a landing near the sago swamps and orchards in South Central Muyuw, showing how a Kakam tree’s roots are understood to support the shoreline.

THE GENUS CALOPHYLLUM AND THE RECENT HISTORY OF WOODLARK ISLAND

Taxonomy, Evolution, Distribution & Asia-Pacific Names

Flower of Mesua ferrea (left) and Calophyllum Inophyllum (right). These closely related trees may also have had related usages in South Asia and Southeast Asia extending throughout the Austronesian world, that possibility perhaps also realized in roughly similar names applied to the different trees in the Iban language of Borneo.

Flower of Mesua ferrea (left) and Calophyllum Inophyllum (right). These closely related trees may also have had related usages in South Asia and Southeast Asia extending throughout the Austronesian world, that possibility perhaps also realized in roughly similar names applied to the different trees in the Iban language of Borneo.

“Now, the characteristic feature of mythical thought, as of ‘bricolage’ on the practical plane, is that it builds up structured sets, not directly with other structured sets,*(note omitted) but by using the remains and debris of events…”(Levi-Strauss, 1966: 21-2).

THE “GROUP”

Kakam

'Madiu,' now (2006) a Wabunun elder recently retired from the United Church, working on a tabuiy, a front and tail piece fit into the keel and jammed up against the Kunubwara, prowboard, to hold it in place. He works with an adze made from a kakam (C. Inophyllum) branch with a metal blade tied onto it the fitting identical to the older use of stones. This is a light tool used in ways like both a chisel and plane, i.e. for making fine, graduated changes in the parts it shapes.

‘Madiu,’ now (2006) a Wabunun elder recently retired from the United Church, working on a tabuiy, a front and tail piece fit into the keel and jammed up against the Kunubwara, prowboard, to hold it in place. He works with an adze made from a kakam (C. Inophyllum) branch with a metal blade tied onto it, the fitting identical to the older use of stones. This is a light tool used in ways like both a chisel and plane, i.e. for making fine, graduated changes in the parts it shapes.

1998, an anageg waiting to be refit (it never was) but showing the architecture of the ribs (gulumoms) and the degree to which the left side, facing the outrigger float, forms a different angle than the opposite side. Each piece forming the ribs, 20 altogether, must be differently shaped.

1998, an anageg waiting to be refit (it never was) but showing the architecture of the ribs (gulumoms) and the degree to which the left side, facing the outrigger float, forms a different angle than the opposite side. Each piece forming the ribs, 20 altogether, must be differently shaped.

2006 picture of yelum, baler, cut from a kakam root designed so that it can be easily held with one hand for a scooping motion into the trough cut into the keel. Note the meeting of the two ribs visible behind the baler. The order of their placement with respect to one another should be reversed so that, for example, on the stern end of the boat the rib on the side of the outrigger float is behind the rib coming from the opposite side. Then just past the center of the boat, where the mast mount is located, this order should be reversed.

2006 picture of yelum, baler, cut from a kakam root designed so that it can be easily held with one hand for a scooping motion into the trough cut into the keel. Note the meeting of the two ribs visible behind the baler. The order of their placement with respect to one another should be reversed so that, for example, on the stern end of the boat the rib on the side of the outrigger float is behind the rib coming from the opposite side. Then just past the center of the boat, where the mast mount is located, this order should be reversed.

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From 2002, top, created from kakam, the kuk structure is supposed to be a rooster. It is held in place towards the top of the mast by means of a mortise joint. It is pulled up by a line called balau powan; it is pulled down by the other line evident in all three of the pictures here. Altogether the form functions like a pulley for raising the sail. The imagery and meaning of the piece are discussed further in Chapter 6. See images larger: TOP LEFT RIGHT

January 2007, Ogis holding one of four model says made for me since 1999. The asymmetry of the rounded edges is evident. These are said to be modeled after the shape of a kakam leaf.

January 2007, Ogis holding one of four model sails made for me since 1999. The asymmetry of the rounded edges is evident. These are said to be modeled after the shape of a kakam leaf.

Apul & Siptupwat

1998. Calophyllum Apul rising above Talibonas and a relatively high canopy behind him.

1996. Calophyllum Apul rising above Talibonas and a relatively high canopy behind him.

January 1996, a Kitavan boathouse and its recently decorated masawa outrigger. The keel/hull is to the left, the outrigger float behind the men sitting to the right. Too narrow to be stable, from a Muyuw perspective.

January 1996, a Kitavan boathouse and its recently decorated masawa/tadob outrigger. The keel/hull is to the left, the outrigger float behind the men sitting to the right. Too narrow to be stable, from a Muyuw perspective.

Dan

2002 A large dan downed in 2002. Most do not have root structures like this one but the do often have roots that protrude above the ground sometimes above the swamp water in which they often grow.

2002 A large dan downed in 2002. Most do not have root structures like this one but they do often have roots that protrude above the swamp water in which they often grow.

Ayniyan/Aynikoy

From 1998 just before a squall begins to govern the passage. The picture was taken to show an arc visible toward the top of the mast...a quality selected for among the two species, ayniyan or aynikoy.

From 1998 just before a squall begins to govern the canoe’s passage. The picture was taken to show an arc visible toward the top of the mast…a quality selected for among the two species, ayniyan or aynikoy. Over and above its initial positioning, the top of the mast should visibly sway to facilitate wind spilling out of the sail.

 

2002 A small and/or young plant of the pandanus form called Legis, the principal pandanus type used for making the anageg sail. Sail construction is detailed in chapter 6. Gaps in the Sulog canopy explain the appearance of the plant, as I observed them and as Muyuw people understand the phenomenon. They are another kind of patchy phenomenon, one of many.

2002 On the way toward the top of a Sulog ridge which aynikoy were to be found a small and/or young plant of the pandanus form called Legis, the principal pandanus type used for making the anageg sail. Sail construction is detailed in chapter 6. Gaps in the Sulog canopy explain the appearance of the plant, as I observed them and as Muyuw people understand the phenomenon. They are another kind of patchy phenomenon, fundamental to the organization of the social system.

 

2002, atop a ridge at Sulog. After cutting one tree he soon found unsatisfactory Duweyala went down a path to cut this one.

2002, atop a ridge at Sulog. After cutting one tree he soon found unsatisfactory, Duweyala went down a path to cut this one.

 

2002, Duweyala with new (aynikoy, redder, on left) mast (vayiel) and the old (from kausilay, lighter on right) one. I left Muyuw in August before he had completed trimming it so do not know its final dimensions. It reportedly worked fine.

2002, Duweyala with new (aynikoy, redder, on left) mast (vayiel) and the old (from kausilay, lighter on right) one. I left Muyuw in August before he had completed trimming it so do not know its final dimensions. It reportedly worked fine.

2002, a Nasikwabw anageg beached on the main Nasikwabw landing showing the bis, the yellow plastic telltales, here yellow strips of plastic, tied to cowry shells on the craft’s front. It is evident that this is the front because the snake etched on the face of the prowboard, kunubwara, is only put on the dabwen, top end of the of the craft.

2002, a Nasikwabw anageg beached on the main Nasikwabw landing showing the bis, the yellow plastic telltales, here yellow strips of plastic, tied to cowry shells on the craft’s front. It is evident that this is the front because the snake etched on the face of the prowboard, kunubwara, is only put on the dabwen, top end of the of the craft.

2002, moving from Nasikwabw, in the left background, to southeastern Muyuw, with bis, the yellow plastic telltales, streaming to the rear.

2002, moving from Nasikwabw, in the left background, to southeastern Muyuw, with bis, the yellow plastic telltales, streaming to the rear.

2002, sailing from Panamout to Nasikwabw before the mast snapped. The sail is low on the mast, the bis, telltales, here pandanus leaves, shooting straight out in the strong wind. The person holding the kavavis, “rudder,” watches these looking for kubub, eddies off the main direction of the wind, which might reverse the pressure on the sail capsizing the boat.

2002, sailing from Panamout to Nasikwabw before the mast snapped. The sail is low on the mast, the bis, telltales, here pandanus leaves, shooting straight out in the strong wind. The person holding the kavavis, “rudder,” watches these looking for kubub, eddies off the main direction of the wind, which might reverse the pressure on the sail capsizing the boat.

Kausilay

On discovering the socio-ecology of the tree: Events to structures—shape

1996, a few kilometers from Wabunun, the classic arc I learned to recognize as shape of kausilay

1996, a few kilometers from Wabunun, the classic arc I learned to recognize as the shape of kausilay

2002, a Nasikwabw kausilay downed and waiting to be carved. The end of the southeast wind, from August one, is slated as Nasikwabw's time for boat work since it is often too rough to be on the seas. So while walking on the island in July of 2002 I noted a number of trees that had been felled for later work.

2002, a Nasikwabw kausilay downed and waiting to be carved. The end of the southeast wind, from August on, is slated as Nasikwabw’s time for boat work since it is often too rough to be on the seas. So while walking on the island in July of 2002 I noted a number of trees that had been felled for later work.

1995, a kausilay near Wabunun reserved for Dibolel's use some time in the 1970s. Since he is one of the few people alive with the skills needed to carve Wabunun's most sophisticated kaybwag, the middle class of outrigger, people remain (in 2012) anxious for him to turn this tree into a keel.

1995, a kausilay near Wabunun reserved for Dibolel’s use some time in the 1970s. Since he is one of the few people alive with the skills needed to carve Wabunun’s most sophisticated kaybwag, the middle class of outrigger, people remain (in 2012) anxious for him to turn this tree into a keel.

1998, side view of the partially dismantled anageg shown and discussed earlier. This angle shows the arc desired for the form. The arc must come from the heartwood of the tree.

1998, side view of the partially dismantled anageg shown and discussed earlier. This angle shows the arc desired for the form. The arc must come from the heartwood of the tree.

Configuring a Transformation

Element in a Resource System

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On the left, from 2002: By the late 1990s money from logging and gold mining explorations had radically increased the number of chain saws distributed throughout the island making taking down large trees a new and different experience–of and about time and power. On the right, kausilay (C. leleanni p.f. stevens) one of many trees downed for recent gardening activities showing its blood-red color and a thin band of yellow sap. People talk about “wasting” these trees because they are not being used for anything. Some youth discuss the cutting with a kind of evident joy… Others, by 2012, are anxious to use walk-about saws to turn such logs into timbers for their houses. People also have noted a serious decline in the kwadoy population. Elders (after 2000) recall times when they could go and find many at a time, “10, 20…” Now many people blame the kwadoy loss on the Oxford study of the island’s population more than a decade ago.

Boundary marker  

2002, the Ole anageg Lavanay beached on Wabunun's landing showing the 'horizontal' arc of the keel. Each end not only veers up, it is cut so that it turns slightly towards the outrigger float. Lavanay's outrigger side here can also be seen to be turn out more towards that side than the more vertical opposite side.

2002, the Ole anageg Lavanay beached on Wabunun’s landing showing the ‘horizontal’ arc of the keel. Each end not only veers up, it is cut so that it turns slightly towards the outrigger float. Lavanay’s outrigger side here can also be seen to be turn out more towards that side than the more vertical opposite side.

         Kausilay as a Person

July, 1996, two kaybwag class canoes/keels on Wabunun's landing. To the left the reddish kausilay; to the right the white aunutau.

July, 1996, two kaybwag class canoes/keels on Wabunun’s landing. To the left the reddish kausilay; to the right the white aunutau.

 

 

Kausilay (Calophyllum leleanii p.f. stevens) stump, its red interior and yellowish sap evident. Although people can associate the red color with menstrual blood, hence connoting the feminine quality given to the tree, they also say the blood color is like the red color prominent in exposed thigh muscle.

Kausilay (Calophyllum leleanii p.f. stevens) stump, its red interior and yellowish sap evident. Although people can associate the red color with menstrual blood, hence connoting the feminine quality given to the tree, they also say the blood color is like the red color prominent in exposed thigh muscle.

 

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