Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands
Early Polynesian voyagers carried into central Polynesia three domestic animals, the pig (puaka), the dog (kuri), and the fowl (moa). All three were evidently introduced into Rarotonga by the early settlers, but their distribution in the other islands of the group is somewhat uncertain. The pig was absent in Aitutaki and Mangaia on first European contact and was introduced into both islands by the London Missionary Society in the 1820's.
The pig was important as food and as an economic and social medium. The duties of a tenant landholder included the cultivation of food and the growing of pigs for his landlord as well as for himself. A tenant curried favor by setting aside a large pig for his landlord and marking it by running a piece page 16of sennit through its snout, hence the term puaka tui-k'a (pig stitched with sennit). The importance of a chief was indicated by the number of pigs baked whole at feasts ordered by him. The head of the pig was placed before the high chief at feasts as the symbolic portion appropriate to his rank. In Samoa, the chiefs were much more matter-of-fact; the head was given to the young men who did the cooking and the high chief disregarded symbolism in favor of the more attractive meat of the loins. The pig was also offered to the gods, to the satisfaction of the priesthood who ate the substance after the gods had absorbed the essence.
Dogs were known, for their name (kuri) occurs in the dialect of all the islands, but there is no accurate information as to their distribution in the islands of the group. The dog was not present in Mangaia. Cook (20, p. 183), who noted the disappointment of an Atiuan with a present given to him, says: "I afterward understood that he was very desirous of obtaining a dog, of which animal this island could not boast though its inhabitants knew that the race existed in other islands of their ocean." Dog's hair was used on cloaks and weapons in New Zealand and breast ornaments in Tahiti, but no trace of dog hair is found on the articles seen from the Cook Islands.
The fowl was known under the general name of moa. (In some stories, its crowing awakens characters in the plot, the crow is rendered into speech by the onomatopoeic word kara-ko.) Wild fowl were trapped, but the original stock has disappeared to be replaced by later introduction. I could get no references to the fowl in Mangaia; evidently, like the pig and the dog, its distribution was not universal. Wild birds were probably caught at times and eaten, but beyond the trap for wild fowls, no information was obtained as to any organized method of procuring them.
Fish and shellfish were also staple foods.
Human flesh was eaten throughout the group when opportunity afforded, usually after battles when the victors utilized their slain enemies. Individual cannibals lived apart and secretly preyed on women and children, but they were detested and were killed sooner or later by relatives of their victims. In Mangaia, defeated warriors, who took refuge in secret caves, ambushed individuals who came their way and ate them. In Rarotonga, the warriors required human flesh as a relish ('ono) with their kava beverage. The warriors stalked unsuspecting victims from a neighboring tribe. When they could not procure an outsider, they sometimes killed a member of their own tribal group to avoid the shame of failure.
Human victims were offered to the gods on special occasions in Mangaia ahd Rarotonga. In Mangaia, after the marae ritual was over, the body Was cast into the bushes behind the marae as food for Papa, the mother of the major gods.
The introduced cultivable food plants were all present in the Cook Islands. They include the coconut (niu), breadfruit (kuru), banana (meika), plantain ('uatu), taro, and giant taro (kape), yam (u'i), sweet potato (kumara), and arrowroot (pia). The underground stem of the ti was cooked. Little is recorded of turmeric (renga) as food. In Aitutaki, the coarse taro of the atolls, puraka, was cultivated. The giant taro was peeled and subjected to prolonged washing in fresh water to prevent irritation of the mouth and throat. The chestnut (i'i or mape) and vi were eaten.
Cultivated plants thrived in the rich volcanic soil and provided an abundance of food. The fruit of the pandanus, so important on atolls, was of no economic importance. After periods of drought, after hurricanes, and after the cultivations of a defeated people were raided or destroyed by the victors, people were forced to subsist on anything that the native forests could supply. Such "famine foods" (kai o te onge) include:
- 'eki: pith cooked
- na'e: corm cooked
- nono: fruit raw or cooked
- 'oi: wild yam; ground tubers and axillary tubers cooked pirita (Mangaia, ma'ara rau; Aitutaki, makaravau): tubers cooked. (The Rarotongans recognized a pirita tavia as inedible and the edible pirita was called pirita tara.)
- poro: small black berries when ripe
- poro 'iti: large red berries; both fruit and leaves eaten
- teve: wild arrowroot; cooked
Water was the common beverage with meals. In Rarotonga, the streams were many and flowed uninterruptedly to the sea. Mangaia also had streams that flowed down the valleys from the central hill of Rangi-motia, but when they reached the raised makatea reef, they flowed through underground channels and oozed out along the rock foundation on the beach. In the other volcanic islands of the group, streams were fewer. Some springs were lined with built up stone to form wells, and all such wells were cared for and named. Water for home consumption was gathered in coconut containers and gourds.
The fluid content of coconuts at certain stages of growth is palatable and refreshing. Mature nuts have less fluid than young nuts, and their liquid is not drunk because of its bitter taste. A plantation worker examines the coconut trees for the right stage of drinking nuts, climbs the tree with the aid of a climbing bandage, and throws down the nuts. A nut is husked on a husking stick implanted in the ground and the tip end cracked in a circle by blows with page 18a stone or with the bush knife that is indispensable equipment. The circular piece of shell is removed, and the worker refreshes himself with the cool fluid. Afterwards, the nut is further cracked and the soft flesh scooped out with the fingers and eaten. Thus the coconut provides food and drink for the worker in the field. A number of drinking nuts, usually husked, are placed in a coconut leaf basket made on the spot and carried home on a carrying pole as part of the home food supplies. The visitor to a native home is invariably offered an opened drinking nut as the first mark of hospitality by a kindly people.
Kava (Piper methysticum) was grown in all the islands, but the infusion from the prepared root did not have the same ceremonial significance it had in western Polynesia. As an ordinary beverage its use has been discontinued in all the islands, but it is occasionally prepared by certain families in Rarotonga. Some of these families have Samoan blood, and their continued use of kava is influenced by historical sentiment.
Informants in Rarotonga told me that branches of the plant were bent over and buried to root afresh. The central root was termed the manava (heart) and the secondary roots, kava 'ata. It was said that the mataiapo chiefs grew kava just outside the paepae boundaries of their houses. When friends knew that the kava plants of a brother chief had matured, they sent a messenger to the owner to say that they were coming to partake of his kava (ki te kai i te kava). The owner then prepared a feast with pork, fish, and other foods. The main root was dug up and washed and, green and unpeeled, grated (uki) on a slab of coral (punga). The grated root was mixed with water in a bowl of no special form and strained and wrung out (tatau) with strainers of coconut leaf stipule (kaka) or the beaten stems of a fern named mauku. The kava beverage was served in coconut shell cups (ipu) to the guests seated at the feast, without ceremony or particular attention to order of precedence in rank. The liquid was very thick and left traces of sediment on the lips and mouth. A cup of water was given to rinse out the mouth. Informants stated that a person became inebriated (kona) on one cup (ka kona i te ipu ta'i). The host took pleasure in seeing the effects of his brew and said "To'ou tika ia" or "Tia kata tia", idiomatic expressions equivalent to "Serve you right." Some guests were so affected that they eventually went home without having partaken of the food. Next day when villagers asked the guests, "How did you get on at the kava drinking of——" (I pe'ea kotou i te kainga kava a——), the reply was "It was a bad kava drinking, we did not eat the food" (E kainga kava kino, kare matou i kai i te kai). The guests who slept at the feast said, "We were like that, we slept huddled together" (Tera to matou tu, i mimingi ata). A kava patch was termed an one kava and a page 19 mataiapo chief named his patch Mimingi-ata, evidently in anticipation of the effects that were to be produced by it.
In Rarotonga, kava was drunk in the warrior's house ('are toa) or barracks and the warriors took turns in procuring a human victim to serve with their kava.
In the Rarotongan account, it is stated that the green kava root was grated, but Gill (33, p. 144), describing the preparation of the beverage in Mangaia, states: "The drink was now prepared in the usual disgusting way, by first chewing pieces of the root and then discharging the contents of the mouth into a bowl kept for the purpose."
Kava was also used socially with feasts in Mangaia and Gill (33, p. 145) describing a plan by the warrior Ngangati to bring certain peopletogether, ays: "He accordingly ordered a grand drinking-bout. The intoxicating root had been chewed and the feast prepared …"
Tangiia, however, demanded from a chief named Marere his little son as a complement to his kava. Marere mixed the kava with three vegetable poisons used in stupefying fish, and so removed the priest.
…The worshippers carried to the priest bowls of intoxicating drink—the nectar of the Polynesian gods—in the hope of securing a favourable response to their petitions. Cooked taro and fish were given with the kava (Piper mythisticum), as without the addition of solid food the narcotic effects of this detestable drink would not be evoked.
Priests drank quantities of kava to work themselves into a state of excitement during which their gods took possession of them and spoke through them. The great priest Mautara, the medium of the Ngariki god Motoro, desiring revenge for a personal insult by the Ngariki tribe, acted as follows (33, p. 68):
…At a meeting of chiefs at the grand marae of their god Motoro, Mautara fell into an ecstasy produced by swallowing an unusual quantity of Piper Mythisticum. With eyes ready to start out of their sockets and in great agitation, he said in unearthly tones, "I, Motoro, require of So-and-so, my faithful worshippers and distinguished chiefs, a most costly offering. On a given day the first-born of each must be slain and eaten in my honour by the tribe of Ngariki, descended from Great Rongo!". Mautara affected to be horrified but as the god had spoken through him, the command had to be obeyed and it was.
Kava was used as an offering to the gods in Mangaia, for Gill (33, p. 65) states of the god Tane-ngaki-au, "To whom libations were offered of chewed Piper mythisticum, that he might send abundance of sprats, etc."
In Mangaian myth (76, pp. 202, 203), the ogress Miru grew a bush of kava named Te-voo in the underworld. As the spirits of the dead entered the underworld, they were caught in the net of Akaanga and submerged in a lake until they nearly drowned. They were then ushered into the presence of Miru page 20whose daughters prepared a bowl of kava from the root of Te-voo. The kava was so strong that it stupefied the guests, who were borne off, unresisting, to be cooked in Miru's oven. Reference to the kava occurs in the following lines of an ancient song:
'Aki'akia tute, Pluck off the branches, 'Aki'akia kava, reak off the kava, Te manava ia Te-voo. he main root of Te-voo.
The presence of kava in Atiu was recorded by Cook (20, p. 193) as follows: "But before we set out, Omai was treated to a drink he had been used to in his own country; which, we observed, was made here, as at other islands in the South Seas, by chewing the root of a sort of pepper."
It would appear that the grated green kava used in condensed form in Rarotonga was much more potent in its physiological effects than the preparation from dried root used in more dilute form in western Polynesia. The kava root evidently was chewed, but Gill and Cook do not say whether the root was green or dried. It is evident that a bowl could be set aside for the making of the beverage, but there was no special form of kava bowl as there was in western Polynesia. It is probable that the stronger effect of kava in the Cook Islands gave the missionaries in that area the conviction that it was a strong intoxicant and led to their condemning what Gill termed a "detestable drink." Hence the use of kava was abandoned by the converts, which was a pity for the people later substituted bush beer made of the fermented juice of oranges, bananas, or pineapples. In western Polynesia, the beverage was not condemned by the church; and today it is used as a refreshing beverage by natives and by Europeans including missionaries.
Material objects used in procuring food in the cultivations or in conveying food to the cooking houses are grouped for convenience under the title of field implements. Implements used in the production of food, such as digging and planting sticks, are dealt with under horticulture.
Climbing bandages were loops of hibiscus bark, the ends knotted together with a reef knot, and were fastened around feet to assist in climbing trees. The climber clasped the tree trunk above his head, drew up his body and legs, and clasped the trunk with the climbing bandage. He straightened his body and by successive movements reached the top. These bandages were made on the spot and discarded after use.
Husking sticks (pa'eru), medium-sized wooden stakes sharpened at both ends, were used to remove the outside husks (puru) of coconuts. One end was driven into the ground at a slight slant and the coconut, held by both ends, was driven down on the upper point. The pierced husk was pried off page 21in strips. The nuts were usually husked in the plantations. The sticks were probably preserved in olden times, but now every man carries a bush knife into the plantation and trims a new stake when one is required.
Breadfruit pickers (rou kuru) were long poles with natural forks formed by two trimmed branches at one end. The breadfruit stalk was caught in the fork and twisted until the fruit fell to the ground. Pickers with nets to catch the fruit, such as those used in the Marquesas and Samoa, were not used in the Cook Islands. A Samoan form of picker, with a short stick tied obliquely to the top to form two forks, was also unknown.
Coconut-leaf baskets (kete nikau) were used to carry the produce of the plantations. Coconut leaves were always available, and the baskets quickly made on the spot (p. 50) were discarded after use.
Netted bags were used as food carriers. Two bag nets (akeke) from Atiu were said to have been used to carry human flesh back to Atiu after the victorious attack on Mitiaro in about 1819 (pl. 12, B, D). The two bags look old and are well made. Such receptacles were used for carrying other kinds of food.
Both bags were made with a netting technique in which the knot used was a reef knot similar to that formerly used in Aitutaki fishing nets. It is possible that the Aitutaki technique (fig. 143) was also used in Atiu. The material was coir fiber twisted into a fairly thick two-ply cord, but some sennit was used in one of the bags. One bag (Bishop Mus. C2868) was made entirely of two-ply cord 4 mm. thick with meshes 40 mm. large when opened out evenly. The bottom width of the bag was 390 mm. and the depth in the middle line the same. The other bag is described in the legend for figure 2.
Both bags have long loops at the upper rim through which a cord was threaded to close the opening. Both were made with the net technique in which netting of the required width and twice the depth was made. The netting was then doubled and the side edges closed by a separate length which zigzagged from the bottom to be attached alternately to the middle of marginal meshes on either side. Though the general mesh knot was a reef knot, the closing cord was attached by a different form of knot (fig. 2, e-g). The sides of the second bag were closed with a length of sennit, which enabled the closing technique to be studied more easily (fig. 2, c). In the second bag, the rim loops and the first row of meshes were made of sennit. At the end of, the sennit row of meshes, the sennit was divided into two plies and continued as a two-ply cord, indicating that the netting element was lengthened as the work proceeded.
Carrying poles (amo; Aitutaki, oka) were balanced over the shoulder with a burden at either end and were part of a man's permanent equipment. A hibiscus ('au) pole about five feet long was generally used, with notches at page 22either end to prevent the burdens from slipping. The Hawaiian carrying poles had two raised projections cut out of the solid wood at either end, sometimes carved in the form of human heads. Many have been collected and preserved in museums, but the less artistic Cook Islands carrying poles apparently did not appeal to collectors.
Figure 2.—Netted food carrier (Bishop Mus., C2867): a, general shape of bag: bottom width, 420 mm.; middle depth, 350 mm.; cord thickness, 5 mm.; open mesh, 48 mm.; upper row of loops (1). b, netting technique: commences with sennit loops (1) and first row of meshes (2), also of sennit; body of two-ply cord; piece of netting of commencement width continued with reef knots until twice required depth, with a row of sennit meshes (3) and sennit loops (4); netting is then doubled so that commencement loops (1) and end loops (4) come together, and side edges are then joined. c, joining side edges: length of braid (1) is tied to middle of a marginal mesh (2) on left side with a figure-of-eight knot (see e) at bottom, where netting is doubled and carried diagonally upward to be tied to middle of a marginal mesh (3) on right edge; braid then crosses to left to be tied to middle of next marginal mesh (4) and then back to next marginal mesh (5) on right; this diagonal course of the joining sennit is continued for full depth of bag and ends at rim loops; bag at each lower corner is somewhat crumpled through regularity of meshes being crowded together by commencement of joining sennit; for details of joining knot on right and left side see f and g. d, reef knot forming general meshing knot, e, commencement knot of joining sennit (1) attached to left mesh (2) in figure-of-eight knot as in c,1, 2; the lower loop passes around one mesh element but upper loop passes around same mesh element and around joining sennit (1). f, knot made by the joining sennit (1) around mesh (3) on right; first makes a half-hitch around mesh cord, and a second reversed half-hitch around same mesh cord and sennit passes below and through first half-hitch (see c, 3). g, knot by joining sennit (1) around mesh cord on left; similar to f but first half-hitch passes under mesh cord instead of over it.
Cooking was usually done in the open but each family had a cook house ('are umu) to protect the fire from rain.
Fire (a'i) was produced by friction ('ika) with two pieces of dry wood in the general Polynesian method now termed the fire plough (70, pp. 51, 52). page 23The upper pointed stick, moved with the hands, was the kaurima (rima, hand) or kapurima, and the lower grooved, stationary piece was the kauati. The lower piece was usually of dry hibiscus or banyan (aoa). A piece of dry coconut spathe (kaka) was loosely twisted (taviri) to form kindling material. The kindling of fire is for some reason associated with the ancestor 'Iro in an Aitutakian chant (70, p. 52), and in the following Rarotongan version:
Kauati na 'Iro, The lower fire stick of 'Iro, Kapurima na 'Iro. The upper fire stick of 'Iro. 'Ika 'Iro i tana a'i, e ka, 'Iro rubs his fire, it lights, 'Ika 'Iro i tana a'i, kare e ka. 'Iro rubs his fire, it won't ignite. Tavetave te ure o 'Iro. Pendent droops the penis of 'Iro.
Small quantities of food were grilled (tunu) on the coals of an open fire, but family meals were cooked (tao) in the earth oven (umu). The firewood (va'ie) was built up to form a support for stones about the size of a closed fist. The fire was kindled (ta'u) and by the time the wood had burned down to coals, the stones were red hot. Any unburned wood was removed and the heated stones were leveled (uru) with a green stake also termed uru. Leaves or strips of banana trunk were laid over the stones and the food arranged upon them. Pigs were baked whole, belly downward (tipapa). The food was covered (tapoki) with leaves or special leaf covers (rau tao) made by a special technique (70, p. 54). When the food was cooked, the oven was uncovered ('uke).
Tongs (piringo'i; Mangaia, mingango'i) for picking up hot stones were made of a length of split coconut-leaf midrib partly cut through in the middle and doubled over, the uncut part forming the hinge.
The cooked tubers or breadfruit and the complement (kinaki) of meat or fish were placed on coconut-leaf platters (raurau). The people ate sitting cross legged on the ground. There was no strict tapu against the sexes eating together as there was in Hawaii, but women of rank could not eat with their first-born sons.
A sauce (tai 'akari) was made of coconut cream from mature coconuts ('akari), mixed with sea water (tai), and served in a half a coconut shell. Now the juice of limes and pieces of raw onion are added.
A piece of food was taken up in the fingers and dipped (tuto'u; Mangaia, tito'u) in the sauce. The Mangaians were fond of cooked taro leaf (paka), which, twisted around a piece of fish or meat to form a mouthful, was termed a po'ona paka. This was dipped in the sauce.
Cook house utensils consist of a coconut grater, strainer, wooden bowls, coconut-shell and gourd utensils, pounding tables, and stone pounders. In addition, there are shells for scraping and slivers of bamboo for cutting meat land fish.
Coconut graters (kana) now in use are curved seats with four legs and an arm projecting from one end, all of one piece of wood (fig. 3, a). A piece of flat iron with a convex, serrated edge is lashed to the end of the arm, but formerly a piece of coral (aravai) was used to form the grating element (tuai). The legs of the seat are usually rectangular in section.
The Mangaians did not use the four-legged seat in former times, but constructed their graters from small tree trunks with two branches at suitable angles to form front legs, or from large branches with two subsidiary branches (fig. 3, b). The trunk or branch beyond the two legs was trimmed to form the projecting arm for the grating element. The near end of the trunk rested on the ground and with the two branch legs cut to suitable length formed a tripod which elevated the forward arm above a bowl placed below the grating end.
For development of the stool grater, see p. 415.
Mature coconuts ('akari) were husked, split in half, and grated into a bowl by the operator, who straddled the stool or trunk.
Strainers to strain and to wring out (taui) the creamy fluid from the grated coconut were formed of wide pieces of coconut-leaf stipule (kaka), beaten coconut husk (puru), or the beaten stalk fibers of a fern named mauku. The grated nut was enveloped in the strainer which was twisted with both hands and the fluid squeezed out into a bowl. The dry gratings remaining on the page 25strainer were shaken off before the process was repeated. In warm weather, the fluid runs (ta'e) quite readily; but in cold weather, the gratings are warmed before wringing by placing a hot oven stone on them.
More elaborate strainers termed taka 'akari were used in the preparation of coconut oil. The strainer-wringer was made of even strips of hibiscus bast plaited in check into a long, wide band and finished off at each end into a cord with a four-ply round plait. The grated meat, after being exposed to the sun in a bowl to bring out the oil, was heaped along the band which was folded around the material and tied. The cord at one end was tied to a crossbeam, and a cross-bar was tied to the lower end by the lower cord. This cleared the wooden bowl below. Two persons twisted the cross bar, and as the strain of the twisting pressed the grated nut, the oil poured into the bowl. This method was demonstrated to me in Aitutaki (70, pp. 58-60).
The plaited wringer was also used to express the fluid (vavai 'iri) from scraped bark of the candlenut tree (tuitui) for use as a dye and as medicine.
Wooden bowls (kumete; Mangaia, uete) of various sizes were made of tamanu wood. Small and medium-sized ones were used for ordinary family requirements, large ones for making pudding for feasts. They may be classified into three main types by the shape of the upper rim opening—oval, round, and elliptical.
Oval and round bowls were made with or without legs, depending upon the curve of the bottom. Sharper curves required support by legs. As they were made of one solid piece of wood, bowls with legs were harder to make. Probably the earliest bowls were without legs, for even those with rounded bottoms could be supported by heaping sand or gravel around the part that rested on the ground. The board floors of post-European houses and the acquisition of steel tools may have promoted the more general use of bowls with legs, although master craftsmen were always ready to add innovations to display their skill. A small upward projection of the rim is an ornamental element in some bowls.
The oval type, in common use, is termed kuete in Atiu and kumete roroa (roroa, long as opposed to round) in Aitutaki (fig. 4, a-e). It is widely curved at one end and is brought to a point at the other. The pointed end is sometimes grooved to facilitate the pouring off of fluid. The rim projection when present is in the middle of the blunt end and is usually a low rectangle.
Figure 4.—Cook Islands wooden bowls. Small beaker bowl without legs, (a, b) Mangaia (Cambridge University Mus., Z.6077), from G. Bennet, July 1824: a, rim opening, length 10 inches, greatest width 7 inches, showing pointed end (1) and base (2) with upward projecting knob (3); outer rim edge rounded off and inner edge inverted and sharp, making greatest diameter a little below upper rim; b, side view, height 3 inches. Medium-sized beaker bowl with legs, (c-e) Aitutaki (Bishop Mus., C8920): c, rim of opening, length 25 inches, greatest outside width 14 inches, rim 0.37 inch thick at sides, 1.12 inches at base (2), no upward projection; d, side view, height at base (2) 4 inches, height at pointed end (1) 5.37 inches; e, under side, showing four short rectangular legs and edge (4) extending from pointed end to under surface. Bowl intermediate between round and beaker, without legs (f, g), Atiu (Bishop Mus., C2833): f, rim opening, length 13 inches, greatest width 11 inches, rim thickness 0.5-0.75 inch., upward rim projection (3) at base (2) 1.75 inches long and full thickness of rim, groove (5) at pointed end (1) 0.25 inch deep; g, side view, height 8.25 inches, showing rim projection (3) and groove (5). h, large round bowl without legs, owned by Parua-rangi Ariki of Atiu. Medium round bowl with legs (i, j), Aitutaki (Bishop Mus., C8919): i, rim opening, 17.5 inches in diameter, rim 0.75 inch thick; j, side view, height 7.25 inches, four round legs. Small elliptical bowl (k, l), Atiu (Bishop Mus., C2834): k, rim opening, length 14.5 inches, width 8.12 inches, shallow pouring groove (5) at one end and sennit loop (6) for hanging up at other; l, side view, height 3.62 inches, in middle and 4 inches at loop end. Large elliptical bowl (m, n), Atiu (Royal Scottish Mus., Edinburgh, 1895.359): m, rim opening, total length 12 feet, opening length 10 feet, 9 inches, outside width 38 inches, inside width 31.5 inches, rim projection (3) not full thickness of rim, carved at both ends with curved lines, one end (1) somewhat sharper and point cut off to form a triangular surface (7) from apex of which a median edge (4) extends downward; n, side view, greatest inside depth 26 inches, capacity
Elliptical bowls with parallel sides and evenly curved ends are small for ordinary use (fig. 4, k, l) or large for feasts. The large size resembles a canoe, and, though the sides are almost parallel, one end usually has a blunter curve. The rim is thicker at the two ends and a rim projection is present at the blunter end (fig. 4, m, n). These forms are without legs.
The canoe bowls were used for mixing food in quantity, for dyeing bark cloth by immersion, and for storing water. The great size of some canoe bowls expressed the wealth of an owner who could command large food supplies. In Mangaia, the canoe bowl was termed uete vaka roa (long canoe bowl), but in the other islands it was called paroe.
An elliptical bowl with long end projections in the Peabody Museum (55422), Cambridge, Massachusetts, was collected on Aitutaki by A. Agassiz. As two similar bowls are in the Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, the Cambridge bowl is used as a type specimen (fig. 5, a, b).
A carved bowl in the British Museum, attributed to Manihiki, was figured by Edge-Partington (24, 1-62-2) who remarked that "the carved design is similar to that on the High Island and Mangaian adzes." I copied Edge-Partington's figure in my work on Manihiki (75, p. 87, fig. 19, c) with some doubt as to the locality. Since then, W. O. Oldman (54, vol. 47, pp. 13, 14, pl. 24) has figured two bowls (459, 460) in his collection, one completely carved on the outer side and the other painted with a split-lozenge design in black (fig. 5, g). I have examined another of the same type in the Peabody Museum (53516) that is covered with a black painted design (fig. 5, c, d). All four bowls are nearly circular in shape. They have four lozenge-shaped legs carved with concentric lozenges on the bottom and a single rectangular lug projects upward from, and is the same thickness as, the rim. They thus constitute a distinct type of bowl. The carved pattern on two of them is of the same technique as that used on Mangaian ceremonial adzes and Austral Islands paddles.
The carving on the Oldman bowl (fig. 5, e) is done in narrow panels defined by straight grooves and thus conforms more to the technique of Mangaia than to that of the Austral Islands. Apart from general shape and the lozenge-shaped legs, the affinity between the painted bowls and the carved bowls is shown by a carved pattern (fig. 5, f) on the upper surface of the lug projection of the Cambridge painted bowl.
The correct locality is settled beyond dispute by the colored design on the Cambridge bowl (fig. 5, h) which is identical with a colored motif on a paddle in the Peabody Museum (53508), Cambridge, Massachusetts. This paddle has the same motif (fig. 5, i) on the edges of the blade, and the presence of the K-page 28motif in horizontal panels on the shaft (fig. 5, j) proves that the paddle is from Mangaia. The colored motif has not been recorded elsewhere in the Cook Islands and the bowls must therefore be identified as Mangaian.
For comparison of bowls, see pp. 415, 416.
Figure 5.—Specialized bowls. Elliptical bowl with end projections (a, b), Aitutaki (Peabody Mus., Cambridge, 55422): a, side view; long end projections (1, 1), ornamental notches along rim, total length 20.75 inches, middle height 3.37 inches; b, rim opening, inside length 14.75 inches, middle width 8.12 inches, ends of projections (1, 1) with 7 transverse notches. Carved round bowl (c, d), Mangaia (Peabody Mus., Cambridge, 53516); c, side view, showing rectangular rim projection (1) and legs (2), height 4.87 inches; d, bottom view, showing carved under surface of four lozenge-shaped legs, diameter from rim projection 12.25 inches, cross diameter 11.87 inches. Carving and painting motifs, e-j. e, carving on bowl (Oldman coll., 459): parallel grooves (1) divide surface into narrow panels for carving; f, carving design on upper surface of rim projection of Cambridge bowl (c. 1); g, painted design on bowl (Oldman coll., 460); h, painted design on Cambridge bowl (c, d); i, painted designs on Mangaian paddle (Peabody Mus., Cambridge, 53508): 1, panels on blade edge identical with bowl design (h), 2, blade motif when painted to meet in rows results in the light figure (3); j, carved K-motif on Cambridge paddle (i).
Coconut Shells and Gourds
Coconut-shell cups (ipu) are in common use as drinking vessels, dippers, and containers for coconut sauce during meals. The mature nut is divided across the middle between the base and tip, and the tip half is used because the base is perforated by the eye.
Coconut-shell water bottles were made from whole coconut shells out of which the meat had been rotted by sea water poured in through the eye. The patent eye was enlarged and closed with a stopper of leaf or wood. A suspension string was passed through holes punctured through the other two eye depressions at the base of the nut.
Gourds (ta'a) were formerly used as water containers, but I did not see any in use.
Pounding tables (papa'ia) are a necessary part of the kitchen equipment, for on these tables cooked taro is pounded to make the poke pudding so popular at feasts. The tables are made from solid blocks of wood in the form of a circular flat upper surface supported on four legs. From the thick circumferential edge, the under surface of the table slopes downward and inward to form a cone with a point in the center. The legs are usually round but a table seen in Atiu has legs somewhat triangular in section (fig. 6).
Figure 6.—Pounding table, Atiu: round top 26 inches in diameter, 1 inch thick at outer edge and 6 inches thick at center; four legs, round in section, 2.25 inches from rim, diminishing in thickness to 4.25 inches at lower end; height, 10 inches.
Figure 7.—Cook Islands basaltic pounders: a, simple concave head (Auckland Mus. 12868); b, c, simple convex head, Atiu (Bishop Mus. C2773); d, e, three-ridged head, smooth curve back and front (Bishop Mus., C2287); f, three-ridged head with concave crescentic edge (1) extending from lateral ridges (Auckland Mus. 12279); g, h, three-ridged head with straight edge (1) lower down (Bishop Mus., 6531); i, j, three-ridged head greatly projected upward from defining edge (1) (Bishop Mus., 6532); k, three-ridged head with median vertical edge (2) running down on neck, Rarotonga (Otago University Mus. D.28.236); l, m, three-ridged head with median ridge greatly projected upward, and lateral ridges projected outward instead of up, Atiu (Bishop Mus., C2772); n, o, four-ridged head with crescentic edge (1) evenly grooved (Bishop Mus., B3497); p, q, two lateral projections and wide median flat projection evidently meant to be grooved with median notch to form four-ridged type (Bishop Mus., C4893); r, s, four-ridged head with low median notch and crescentic edges (1) (Bishop Mus., C4892). Dimensions in millimeters:
|Height||Head (transverse)||Neck||Base||Weight (oz.)|
Pounders may be divided into the head, neck, body, and base. I previously described the head as the grip (70, p. 246), but the pounders are grasped by the neck. The head is expanded to prevent the hand from slipping upward. The head is variously shaped, and different island groups have developed their own characteristic patterns.
The heads of basaltic pounders are expanded laterally for a short distance, and the upper surface is treated in one of three ways: a simple concave or convex curve from side to side, a straight upper edge notched with two grooves to form a median ridge and two lateral ones, or notched with three grooves to form four ridges. A crescentic ridge may define the lower part of the head or a middle ridge may be prolonged upward (fig. 7). The three main techniques I have denned (70, pp. 251, 252) as palm grip, two-finger grip, and three finger grip; but these terms must also be discarded.
The neck is the narrowest part of the pounder, and, though rounded in section, the lateral diameter following the long axis of the head is usually greater than the antero-posterior diameter. The neck expands evenly into the body without a line of demarcation. The body expands evenly toward the base, where its greatest diameter is marked by a circumferential edge which defines the inferior basal surface. The line from neck to base is characterized by its straightness or slight concavity toward the base which contrasts markedly with the flared pounders of the Society, Marquesas, and Hawaiian islands.page 32
The base forming the inferior pounding surface is markedly convex, and though most are approximately circular, others show a greater diameter in the direction of the long axis of the head. Because of the lack of flare, the basal surfaces are comparatively small, the pounders measured showing a range from about 66 to 80 mm. in diameter. The basaltic pounders resemble pestles in general appearance, but they are well ground with smooth outer surfaces.
A small type of basaltic pounder, said to have been used by women to pound one or two taros for children, departs from the general pattern in having a concavo-convex contour from neck to base which, with a marked convex basal surface, gives the implement a bulbous appearance (fig. 8).
Figure 8.—Cook Islands basaltic pounders, small bulbous type: a, head with convex curve (Bishop Mus., 6533); b, head with concave curve, Rarotonga (Otago University Mus., D.27.50); c, three-ridged head, Aitutaki (Otago University Mus., D.33.2062); d, unique with four projections, Rarotonga (Otago University Mus., D.35.352); e, three-ridged head, one lateral ridge broken, made of stalagmite, Aitutaki (Auckland Mus., 10713). Dimensions in millimeters:
The calcite pounders of Mangaia are different in technique from the basaltic pounders of the other islands. Though not so tall, they have a wider base which runs usually from 90 to 100 mm. in diameter. As a result, the pounder is more massive in neck and body than basaltic pounders. From neck to base, the body contour line is usually convex but a few pounders may have a slight concavity near the base. The head, while following the lateral technique, departs from the ridged form of the basaltic pounders in having a wide concave upper surface formed by the longer lateral projections, which extend upward as well as outward. The upper surface forms a continuous curved plane defined by distinct edges in front and back. The lateral projections may be ground down to a median edge below, extending from the outer ends to the neck, or the under surface may be rounded off. The outer ends of the projections are cut at a slightly outward, downward slant and these ends form distinct surfaces which are triangular or somewhat U-shaped according to the treatment of the under page 33surface of the projections (fig. 9, a, b). In a second, rarer form, the lateral projections are trimmed into two short rounded knobs (fig. 9, c, d). I have seen but two of this variety, but they showed signs of use and had a slight concavity toward the base, whereas all of the other variety were convex. A form similar to the variety with long projections is made of basalt in Raivavae (fig. 9, e, f). The only difference other than material, is that the upper surface of the long head curve is rounded instead of flat with the result that the ends of the projections are round instead of triangular or U-shaped.
Figure 9.—a, b, Mangaian calcite pounder, common form (Bishop Mus., B3489): height in middle line, 172 mm., curved upper surface of head, 86 mm. wide by 36 mm. thick; width at lowest part of head, 90 mm.; neck thickness 58 mm. by 50 mm.; base diameters, 100 mm. by 99 mm.; body line from neck to base, convex; outer surface of head projections, triangular with apex down, 36 mm. wide and 36 mm. in depth; basal surface slightly convex; weight, 83 oz. c, d, Mangaian calcite pounder, rarer form (Bishop Mus., C8851): height, 172 mm.; head, 69 mm. wide by 44 mm. thick; head formed of two rounded knobs with transverse edge connecting lower ends; neck diameter, 47 mm. and 44 mm.; base, 104 mm. by 101 mm.; body contour slightly concave toward base; well used; weight, 64 oz. e, f, Raivavae basalt pounder (Bishop Mus., B4678): height, 162 mm.; curved upper part of head rounded from before back; head upper width, 94 mm.; lower width 103 mm.; head thickness, 31 mm.; head projections round; diameters, 31 mm.; neck, 53 mm. by 39 mm.; base, 98 mm. by 94 mm.; body line convex; weight, 67 oz.
The coral pounders made of Orbicella coral have been described for Rarotonga (70, p. 248), and the one in Bishop Museum is similar (fig. 10, a). It page 34follows the Mangaian type in having two lateral lugs, but they have a more upward slant. It differs entirely from Cook Islands technique, in that it has a concave flare to the body and a very wide basal surface.
Figure 10.—Coral and wooden pounders. a, coral pounder, Rarotonga (Bishop Mus., C8883): height middle line, 142 mm.; greatest width of head, 68 mm., thickness 34 mm.; neck, 54 mm. by 41 mm.; base, 124 mm. by 121 mm.; body greatly flared and basal surface very convex. b, side view of a. c, wooden pounder, Aitutaki (Auckland Mus.): height, 292 mm.; base diameter, 63 mm.
A wooden pounder seen in Aitutaki (70, p. 50) was long, round in section with no flare, and had a straight basal surface and a circular conical knob for the head (fig. 10, c). Except for the head, it followed the pestle form of the stone pounders. Since the fall in the price of copra, the people of Aitutaki and the other islands have been making wooden pounders and other curios for sale, some of the pounders being modeled on the flared Tahitian type with long lateral projections.
For discussion of Cook Islands pounders and introduction of foreign types, see pp. 417-420.
3 See list of plants on pp. 9, 10.