Chapter 5: VATUL: A Life Form and a Form for Life

“Indeed, it might be said that the problem rendered spatially in the knot is not a problem that can be conceived experientially at all other than on the basis of binding itself; that is, it is unlikely that the knot is the result of a projection of pre-existing concepts derived from social-culture experience, but that it evidences a complex relational and transformational field which can be discovered simply by doing it and looking at it” (Kuchler 2001: 71).

Introduction

From 2006/7 and 2009, a younger and older akisi (Ficus) tree, which Sipum early on told me was a tree with a lot of “power.” The tree on the left grows amidst Wabunun's garden areas, the one on the right is west of Unmatan along a path leading to some of its sago orchards in the swamps that stretch towards the Sulog peninsula. Because it configures entangling until death the tree’s leaves provide love magic thought suitable for entangling two peoples’ minds in one another.

From 2006/7 and 2009, a younger and older akisi (Ficus) tree, which Sipum early on told me was a tree with a lot of “power.” The tree on the left grows amidst Wabunun’s garden areas, the one on the right is west of Unmatan along a path leading to some of its sago orchards in the swamps that stretch towards the Sulog peninsula. Because it configures entangling until death the tree’s leaves provide love magic thought suitable for entangling two peoples’ minds in one another.

Vatul as a Life Form, and Names

 

From 1974 or 75, Dibolel weaving new rope in Wabunun from the inner bark of the tree ukw (Sterculia sp.), the prototype for good material. Strips of the bark hang drying from the rafters above.

From 1974 or 75, Dibolel weaving new rope in Wabunun from the inner bark of the tree ukw (Sterculia sp.), the prototype for good material. Strips of the bark hang drying from the rafters above.

From 1996, Gumiya with im vatul: The vatul called im is extracted from aerial roots of the shoreline pandanus tree called loud. Im may be used for the string in a veigun, the Kula Necklace, as the thread for sewing together other pandanus leaves for sleeping mats or sails, fishing nets in north central Muyuw and a the preferred string for “string figures. The string can be very small yet when three pieces are woven together they are relatively strong and exude a friction that makes them easy to manipulate. The name loud is also applied to traditional belts and groin-covering apparel worn by men. The lower left picture shows a strand being pulled from a hacked off aerial root; although unfocused the lower right picture is an up-close view of the strands. The top photo is partially extracted and separate material from the loud aerial root ready to take back to the village for further refinement.

From 1996, Gumiya with im vatul: The vatul called im is extracted from aerial roots of the shoreline pandanus tree called loud. Im may be used for the string in a veigun, the Kula Necklace, as the thread for sewing together other pandanus leaves for sleeping mats or sails, fishing nets in north central Muyuw and a the preferred string for “string figures. The string can be very small yet when three pieces are woven together they are relatively strong and exude a friction that makes them easy to manipulate. The name loud is also applied to traditional belts and groin-covering apparel worn by men. The lower left picture shows a strand being pulled from a hacked off aerial root; although unfocused the lower right picture is an up-close view of the strands. The top photo is partially extracted and separated material from the loud aerial root ready to take back to the village for further refinement.

Tying and its Terminology

 

The vine called yoyit

From 2002, in an instant Gumiya collects yoyit (yoyit (ARACEAE, probably Raphidophora sp.) to bring back to his house near Wabunun for any number of tying tasks. There are no formal rules for tying together the many different trees and parts that go into making a house but Gumiya's ties and knots always seemed more formally and carefully done than most.

From 2002, in an instant Gumiya collects yoyit (ARACEAE, probably Raphidophora sp.) to bring back to his house near Wabunun for any number of tying tasks. There are no formal rules for tying together the many different trees and parts that go into making a house but Gumiya’s ties and knots always seemed more formally and carefully done than most.

Soul’ as method

Fancy tying…From 2009, one of the pigs tied up for the Ungayay ritual for Sipum’s death. Most of the “knots” described later in Chapter 6 are evident in this set of pictures. This pig was a case of somebody exhibiting their tying virtuosity, elaborations sometimes witnessed in houses as well. Such is called “kalimwasau,” roughly “showing off.”

Fancy tying…From 2009, one of the pigs tied up for the Ungayay ritual for Sipum’s death. Most of the lines and “knots” described in Chapter 6 are evident in this set of pictures. This pig was a case of somebody exhibiting their tying virtuosity, elaborations sometimes witnessed in houses as well. Such is called “kalimwasau,” roughly “showing off.”

From 2002, following correct order, the Duweyala starting the tying of the kaynikw, the odd-shaped spring in the direct center of the keel upon which the kunusop rests. As per tradition, he holds the "koliu"in place with his left hand doing the tying, yawan, with his right.

From 2002, following correct order, Duweyala starting the tying of the kaynikw, the odd-shaped spring in the direct center of the keel upon which the kunusop rests. As per tradition, he holds the “koliu”in place with his left hand doing the tying, yawan, with his right.

From 2002, show the movement of the right hand, Duweyala works to complete the center tying of the kaynikw, the odd-shaped spring in the direct center of the keel. One this is complete, he moves to the wowun end of the two pieces, then the dabwen end. They are both lower than the two cross-pieces shown here. These pieces were retired following our trip to Muyuw because it was felt they were too far to the bottom of this picture. They sit asymmetrically in the keel, slightly more towards the outrigger side of the craft.

From 2002, show the movement of the right hand, Duweyala works to complete the center tying of the kaynikw, the odd-shaped spring in the direct center of the keel. Once this is complete, he moves to the wowun end of the two pieces, then the dabwen end. They are both lower than the two cross-pieces shown here. These pieces were retied following our trip to Muyuw because it was felt they were too far to the bottom of this picture. They sit asymmetrically in the keel, slightly more towards the outrigger side of the craft.

From 2006-07: Top, tagegeyon tying of kiyad, the cross beam that is tied to the internal hull structure of the boat, sesuiy, from the right, going across and through the hull to the left extending out over the outrigger float where watot, from the Boagis ritual firewood kaboum, connect it to the float. Left: tagegeyon wrapping of kiyad as it passes over the outrigger side seysuiy through the hull towards the outrigger float to the left. Right: the kiyad attached to the right side sesuiy, opposite the outrigger float by means of a tagegeyon wrapping modified to what is called eyon tau.

From 2006-07: Top, tagegeyon tying of kiyad, the cross beam that is tied to the internal hull structure of the boat, sesuiy, from the right, going across and through the hull to the left extending out over the outrigger float where watot, from the Boagis ritual firewood kaboum, connect it to the float.
Left: tagegeyon wrapping of kiyad as it passes over the outrigger side seysuiy through the hull towards the outrigger float to the left.
Right: the kiyad attached to the right side sesuiy, opposite the outrigger float by means of a tagegeyon wrapping modified to what is called eyon tau.

 

 

TTibwelon, arm (in this case, the specific term sasi) leg (kaykwas) or waist (palit) bracelets , made from the black inner strands of the vine kokoyit (Gleichinia sp.) strands of the vine kokoyit (Gleichinia sp.). Among other places, these were and still are frequently obtained from the meadows (sinasop) described in Chapter 4. Muyuw distinguish two kinds, kalamanag and kaylogwaw. These pictures are of the kalamanag type, and are the standard kind woven in Muyuw. The band (to the left) is about 8cm in diameter and 1.5 wide (to the right). I have seen armbands much wider than this one. And in the past both men and women frequently wore many of these items. They were once much more bound up than they are now, though the effect of tibwelon is still considered to be very becoming.

Tibwelon, arm (in this case, the specific term sasi) leg (kaykwas) or waist (palit) bracelets , made from the black inner strands of the vine kokoyit (Gleichinia sp.) strands of the vine kokoyit (Gleichinia sp.). Among other places, these were and still are frequently obtained from the meadows (sinasop) described in Chapter 3. Muyuw distinguish two kinds, kalamanag and kaylogwaw. These pictures are of the kalamanag type, and are the standard kind woven in Muyuw. The band (to the left) is about 8cm in diameter and 1.5 wide (to the right). I have seen armbands much wider than this one. And in the past both men and women frequently wore many of these items. People were once much more bound up than they are now, though the effect of tibwelon is still considered to be very becoming.

 

Sip vinay and sip tauwau

 

The sipvinay knot, thought to be ugly and the kind of knot women habitually create for short term purposes.

The sipvinay knot, thought to be ugly and the kind of knot women habitually create for short term purposes.

In contrast to sipvinay, "knot female," this siptauwau, "knot male," is the preferred kind and conceived to be more attractive.

In contrast to sipvinay, “knot female,” this siptauwau, “knot male,” is the preferred kind and conceived to be more attractive.

Sipkwadoy and sipkibkeway and boat “methods”

Sipkwadoy knot, the fastening procedure for all animals and the anchoring tie for the kumis method of tying, and . It is named for the island's cuscus (kwadoy: Philanger lullulae).

Sipkwadoy knot, the fastening procedure for all animals and the anchoring tie for the kumis method of tying. It is named for the island’s cuscus (kwadoy: Philanger lullulae).

From 2002: Left, the kibkeway "method"of tying, shown by the way the two sets of watot are tied to the kiyad, cross-beam, connecting the hull to the outrigger float. The end of the green tying material points forward, the end of the white material points backward. This is to replicate the completion of a stroke when paddling the canoe. Top right, kumis tying before Levanay was retied in 2002. The photo is of the third kiyad (crossbeam) from the wowun, or back end of the craft, looking at the lam, outrigger float. The boat and float’s dabwen, the top or front end, is to the left. Bottom right: From after Levanay has been retied, anageg crossbeam tying employing the kumis method looking from the wowun to the dabwen end of the outrigger float.

From 2002: Left, the kibkeway “method”of tying, shown by the way the two sets of watot are tied to the kiyad, cross-beam, connecting the hull to the outrigger float. The end of the material in the green circle points forward, the end in the white circle points backward. This is to replicate the completion of a stroke when paddling the canoe.
Top right, kumis tying before Levanay was retied in 2002. The photo is of the third kiyad (crossbeam) from the wowun, or back end of the craft, looking at the lam, outrigger float. The boat and float’s dabwen, the top or front end, is to the left.
Bottom right: From after Lavanay has been retied, anageg crossbeam tying employing the kumis method looking from the wowun to the dabwen end of the outrigger float.

Model of a sipbalau knot, sequenced reversals.

Model of a sipbalau knot, sequenced reversals.

From 2002, balau lines looped around top of Lavanay's new mast while in Nasikwabw. The sipbalau knot is named from this line. The placement of three sipbalau knots, one at the top of the mast, two on the outrigger platform, controls the degree to which the mast arcs toward the outrigger float and pivots more or less to the leading direction of the craft.

From 2002, balau lines looped around top of Lavanay’s new mast while in Nasikwabw. The sipbalau knot is named from this line. The placement of three sipbalau knots, one at the top of the mast, two on the outrigger platform, controls the degree to which the mast arcs toward the outrigger float and pivots more or less to the leading direction of the craft.

From 2002 voyage, the balau line fastened to the outrigger platform using three open loops to achieve its purpose--holding a position while being easily manipulated.

From 2002 voyage, the balau line fastened to the outrigger platform using three open loops to achieve its purpose–holding a position while being easily manipulated.

Lepwason and sail structuring

Model of the lepwason knot. In this model if you pull the short end the knot releases immediately; if you pull the long end it tightens.

Model of the lepwason knot. In this model if you pull the short end the knot releases immediately; if you pull the long end it tightens.

 

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From 2009, making a model sail. Legis leaves are edged with sharp burrs which must be cut off as the first step after gathering the leaves. On the left Lewovau, a Wabunun elder, shaves sides of the leaves with a small knife.
To the right: Small pieces of obsidian can be found lying on the ground around many but not all contemporary villages—the Unmatan area is especially loaded with these pieces. Wondering if these might have been used for processing these leaves, among other things, I asked the women helping with the 2009 sail making to try using them. They could easily hold some of the pieces employing them for the task of shaving legis leaves.

From 2009, Ogis making ("burning") a model sail. After collecting the legis leaves and removing the burrs that edge them, the next step is to pass the leaves through a fire then fold them up.

From 2009, Ogis making (“burning”) a model sail. After collecting the legis leaves and removing the burrs that edge them, the next step is to pass the leaves through a fire then fold them up.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail. Coupled and folded "burned" leaves are in the background. To prepare for stitching them together the leaves are sometimes attached by means of toothpick-sized sticks.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail. Coupled and folded “burned” leaves are in the background. To prepare for stitching them together the leaves are sometimes attached by means of toothpick-sized sticks.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail. With the stitching visible the front and backsides of the leaves are also shown. This is part of the reversal system that structures the sail-making process.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail. With the stitching visible the front and backsides of the leaves are also shown. This is part of the system of reversals that structures the sail-making process.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Ogis is organizing the curved end of this sail, its awomweg. Its asymmetry, the kakam rather than Budibud shark model, is apparent from the line he has scratched into the leaves as a guide.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Ogis is organizing the curved end of this sail, its awomweg. Its asymmetry, the kakam rather than Budibud shark model, is apparent from the line he has scratched into the leaves as a guide.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Vines or woven rope used to edge the sail and then encased by other material becomes both part of the internal structure of the sail as well as the means for constructing the external lines that become the means for attaching the sail to the boat.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Vines or woven rope used to edge the sail and then encased by other material becomes both part of the internal structure of the sail as well as the means for constructing the external lines for rigging it to the boat.

 

9b . From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Coordinating internal with internal lines. When I first saw Ogis attaching the two ends I thought he was just winding the “rope” around the piece of rattan. But then I realized he was effectively turning what I thought was a simple revolution into a sipbalau knot by executing a series of reversals. When it is being made this form protrudes from the corner of the sail waiting the attachment of other lines.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Coordinating internal with internal lines. When I first saw Ogis attaching the two ends I thought he was just winding the “rope” around the piece of rattan. But then I realized he was effectively turning what I thought was a simple revolution into a sipbalau knot by executing a series of reversals. When it is being made this form protrudes from the corner of the sail waiting the attachment of other lines.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Pamaloul, slats that run the length of the sail's inside lap the curved ends of the sail after they fit under the peculiar stitching on each end named Vav takon, "centipede chest." The centipede is probably Scolopendra sp.

From 2009, Ogis making a model sail: Pamaloul, slats that run the length of the sail’s inside lap the curved ends of the sail after they fit under the peculiar stitching on each end named Vav takon, “centipede chest.” The centipede is probably Scolopendra sp.

 

From 1998, on "Number 2's" Nasikwabw anageg a man has climbed the mast to insert the halyard through the kuk in order to raise the sail.

From 1998, on “Number 2’s” Nasikwabw anageg a man has climbed the mast to insert the halyard through the kuk in order to raise the sail.

 From 1998. While “Number 2,” this anageg’s owner, is positioned opposite the outrigger float so that he can raise the sail by pulling on the halyard, these two men stand on the outrigger platform first supporting the sail then pushing it up with sticks.

From 1998. While “Number 2,” this anageg’s owner, is positioned opposite the outrigger float so that he can raise the sail by pulling on the halyard, these two men stand on the outrigger platform first supporting the sail then pushing it up with sticks.

From 1998, Number 2 raises the sail for his anageg. Two people not pictured are on the far right with poles pushing the sail up. Number 2's right foot is on the mast, his left on a long plank, formed the boat’s kavavis, placed across the beam of the craft. He raises the sail by falling/pushing himself back while hanging onto the halyard.

From 1998, Number 2 raises the sail for his anageg. Two people not pictured are on the far right with poles pushing the sail up. Number 2’s right foot is on the mast, his left on a long plank, formed the boat’s kavavis, placed across the beam of the craft. He raises the sail by falling/pushing himself back while hanging onto the halyard.

From 1998, Number 2 falling back as he raises the sail for his anageg. Two people not pictured are on the far right with poles pushing the sail up. As can be seen, two of the craft's kavavis, "rudders," serve as planks place across the beam of the craft for his support. "Vay, vay" is a shout called out by those watching and helping as he falls back to pull on the halyard which raises the sail.

From 1998, Number 2 falling back as he raises the sail for his anageg. Two people not pictured are on the far right with poles pushing the sail up. As can be seen, two of the craft’s kavavis, “rudders,” serve as planks place across the beam of the craft for his support. “Vay, vay” is a shout called out by those watching and helping as he falls back to pull on the halyard which raises the sail.

From 1998, Nasikwabw anageg's sail is pulled high on the mast because the wind is light.

From 1998, Nasikwabw anageg’s sail is pulled high on the mast because the wind is light.

From 1998, the sail is set, high on the mast with a light wind.

From 1998, the sail is set, high on the mast with a light wind.

2002, Onosimo, early in our voyage to Nasikwabw, before our mast broke, holding down the enay, unattached alita, because the wind was so strong. Compared to the 1998 picture of the sail tied high up on the mast, the contrary position is readily visible here.

2002, Onosimo, early in our voyage to Nasikwabw, before our mast broke, holding down the enay, unattached alita, because the wind was so strong. Compared to the 1998 picture of the sail tied high up on the mast, the contrary position is readily visible here.

2002, later in our voyage to Nasikwabw, after our mast broke, here the sail is much lower on what is left of the mast and angled towards perpendicular, rather than parallel, to the mast. Its lower left end, rather than being tied near to the mast, is pulled out over the outrigger platform.

2002, later in our voyage to Nasikwabw, after our mast broke, by means of the asan the sail is much lower on what is left of the mast and angled towards perpendicular, rather than parallel, to the mast. Its lower left end, rather than being tied near to the mast, is pulled out over the outrigger platform.

Vabod and fishing nets

 

From December, 1974, a day of collective work. Top: From December, 1974, a day of collective work. Unseen beneath the tree to left Aisi carves a kas, a trough for collecting sago. One of his elder brothers weaves a fishing net section to the middle left, the only man in the 1970s still wearing a loud. In the center background is one of Wabunun's two famous middle-sized outrigger boats, of the kaybwag class. It is being recaulked. To the right several mean are putting the finishing touches on an aydinidin class sail, though one for a kaybwag not an anageg. Left, on the December, 1974, day of collective work: Gisaw one of three elders taking turns working on the same net section. Right, on the December, 1974, day of collective work: Takanayob weaves a the new net section. Another of Wabunun's famous kaybwag canoes is in the upper right. It and another out of sight here were being recaulked. Already scraped pieces of wood from which the caulking material was extracted are on the bench where the children are sitting.

From December, 1974, a day of collective work. Top: Unseen beneath the tree to left Aisi carves a kas, a trough for collecting sago. One of his elder brothers weaves a fishing net section to the middle left, the only man in the 1970s still wearing a loud. In the center background is one of Wabunun’s two famous middle-sized outrigger boats, of the kaybwag class. It is being recaulked. To the right several mean are putting the finishing touches on an aydinidin class sail, though one for a kaybwag not an anageg.
Left, on the December, 1974, day of collective work: Gisaw one of three elders taking turns working on the same net section.
Right, on the December, 1974, day of collective work: Takanayob weaves a the new net section. Another of Wabunun’s famous kaybwag canoes is in the upper right. Its prowboardless end-piece, matsibod, can be seen. Chapter 6 discusses how this piece differs from its front end and anageg prow and stern pieces. It and another out of sight here were being recaulked. Already scraped pieces of wood from which the caulking material was extracted are on the bench where the children are sitting.

2009, Kaulay village, North central Muyuw. Talibonas holds a tikw, a Kaulay associated fishing net for sardine-like fish. Although the net is assembled and maintained through time, the frame shown here is made just before it is used then discarded.

2009, Kaulay village, North central Muyuw. Talibonas holds a tikw, a Kaulay associated fishing net for sardine-like fish. Although the net is assembled and maintained through time, the frame shown here is made just before it is used then discarded.

Model of the vabod knot

Model of the vabod knot

From 2002, the vabod arrangement. Gumiya holds the sequence, each hand holding the beginning and end of the sequence in which the knot form appears.

From 2002, the vabod arrangement. Gumiya holds the sequence, each hand holding the beginning and end of the sequence in which the knot form appears.

Perspectives on Vatul–Bitalik Non

From 2002, pounding the yawasay tie into place around Yavanay’s mast in Ole the day before our departure north. The crowd watching this was no less interested than the one that gathered the night before to participate in a string figure showing.

From 2002, pounding the yawasay tie into place around Lavanay’s mast in Ole the day before our departure north. The crowd watching this was no less interested than the one that gathered the night before to participate in a string figure showing.

 

Left, from 2002, a moment of transformation encased in one of the more astonishing string figure episodes requiring riveted attention across several dimensions. Aligeuna is the women to whom friends directed me for expert performance of these forms. They—Sipum and Mayal, the men who made me disbelieve in magic in 1995—mouthed her moves as she went through them.
Center, from the 2002 retying of Lavanay, Duweyala straining as he pulls the rope–it is classed as mamad–to start the tying of the nedin to the duwadul. The four posts (taniwag) leading from the duwadul to the outrigger float are already in place. Marks from the previous tying can be seen on the wood near his feet.
Right, also from 2002 and a few moments after the center picture, tying the nedin onto the duwadul. The nedin is the white piece of wood running perpendicular to the duwadul which is now lapped by swings up to and back from the posts at the far right connecting the duwadul to the outrigger float. The twists and turns used for this complicated knot are no less daunting than the transformative intricacies in string figures.

 

From 2002, Aligeuna performing the kananik called Kalavis, “Paddle.”

From 2002, Aligeuna performing the kananik called Kalavis, “Paddle.”

 

 From 2002, Aligeuna performing a katuvin, double reversal (from one hand to the other) in the Gumeau (Pleiades) sequence.

From 2002, Aligeuna performing a katuvin, double reversal (from one hand to the other) in the Gumeau (Pleiades) sequence.

From 2002, Aligeuna performing Ipel kubwan in the Gumeau kananik sequence.

 

From 2002, Aligeuna performing Tautoul budibud plelidius, configuring black rays –light appearing as black–that shoot into the sky from the east blocking out the stars just before the sun’s first light appears.

 

From 2002, Aligeuna performing Bwiyam (daybreak)… dissipation…and it is over.

From 2002, Aligeuna performing Bwiyam (daybreak)… dissipation…and it is over.