Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands
The distribution of shell trumpets throughout Polynesia, particularly in the marginal areas of Hawaii, Easter Island, New Zealand, and Samoa-Tonga, indicates that they belong to the first period. The more restricted distribution of the shark-skin drum and the wooden gong raises the question of their introduction at a later period.
Shell trumpets underwent variations in the different island groups in that the hole was made on the side or at the end. A further variation occurred in the addition of a wooden mouthpiece which in the Marquesas was attached to a side hole and in New Zealand to an end hole. Old trumpets from Mangaia (fig. 167) have the hole on the side and no wooden mouthpiece.
Shark-skin drums do not occur in the marginal areas of Easter Island, New Zealand, and Samoa-Tonga but they are present in Hawaii. McKern (manuscript) states that informants told him that a drum termed nafa was present in Tonga in ancient times. It was said to be cylindrical and upright, fashioned from a hollowed section of a log, and equipped with a drumhead of shark skin. However, the term nafa was applied in Samoa (73, p. 578) to the original form of Samoan wooden gong which was displaced by the lali form, held to have been introduced from Tonga. McKern also stated that a shark-skin drum termed itulasi was formerly used in Samoa but was said to have been a foreign introduction. Hence its presence in Tonga and Samoa cannot be accepted seriously. However, it must have entered central Polynesia at an early period to allow of its spread to the Cook Islands, Tuamotu, the Australs, the Marquesas, Mangareva, and Hawaii. Its presence in Hawaii and absence in New Zealand is puzzling because the New Zealanders left the central area page 457after the Hawaiians left. The drum had a secular use in dances and festivals and a religious use in temple ritual.
New Zealanders danced to the time of the human voice and the beating of hands and feet. Their religious ritual was confined to the priest and perhaps a few companions at the small shrines. Massed meetings on a temple court were unknown. Thus, if the drum was known to them in the Society Islands, the changes in secular and religious technique may have led to its abandonment. The presence of the drum in the Marquesas and Mangareva and its absence in Easter Island raises a similar problem of abandonment. Its absence in Samoa and Tonga may be accounted for by an early severance of communication from central Polynesia to the west, though occasional incursions from west to east continued to a later period.
The Cook Islands drums follow the direct method (fig. 168) in which the tautening braids pass directly through holes in the shark-skin cover. This method is shared by the Society and Austral Islands. Another technique in which the tautening braids pass through loops formed by a separate cord or cords passing horizontally through holes around the circumference of the shark-skin cover, may be termed the indirect method. The indirect method was used in Mangareva, Tuamotu, Marquesas, and Hawaii. In both methods, the threading of the tautening braids through cover holes or loops was usually from left to right. The exceptions, in which the threading was from right to left, were probably products of left-handed craftsmen.
The lower single slot fixation characteristic of Aitutaki was also used in the Society Islands. In the Austral Islands, which have much affinity with the Cook and Society Islands, the lower fixation was made around carved projections on the lower half of the drum. This left the lower part of the drum free of the vertical lengths of braid, and the clear area was elaborately carved. Human figures and crescents were cut out through the entire thickness of the wooden wall by a series of perforations. In the various designs, there is always a circumferential row of small rectangular slots near the lower rim. I assumed that the lower slot fixation was once used and that the once functional slots diminished in size to become purely an art motif when the technique was changed to the projecting knob fixation. This assumption has been substantiated by the lower single slot fixation in two Austral Island drums—one in the British Museum (L.M.S. loan, 1890) and the other in the National Museum, Dublin (Trin. Coll., 3636-82).
None of the islands which used the upper indirect fixation used the lower slot fixation. In Mangareva, the braid passed around short knobs projecting downward from the lower rim; in Tuamotu and the Marquesas around a hoop attached through slots to the body at the junction of the middle and lower thirds; and in Hawaii around vertical elements in the open woodwork which ornamented the lower end of the drum. The differences in the upper and lower fixations of the tautening braids is shown in figure 273.page 458
Figure 273.—Polynesian drums. a-d, direct upper attachment; e-h, indirect upper attachment. a, Aitutaki, Cook Islands, see figure 168: lower slot attachment. b, Tahiti, Society Islands (Cambridge University Mus.): lower slot attachment; height, 20.5 inches; upper diameter, 7.75 inches; lower diameter, 8.5 inches. c, Raivavae, Austral Islands (British Mus., L.M.S. coll.): lower attachment to rectangular slots with another row of unused rectangular slots above engaged slots; lower third carved; height, 49 inches; diameter, 14.25 inches. d, Raivavae, Austral Islands (Cambridge University Mus.): lower attachment to carved knobs (1); woodwork carved below knobs and ends in lower row of rectangular slots (2), no longer used for attachment. e, Mangareva (Museé de St. Germain): indirect upper attachment to loops of single circumferential braid and lower attachment simply looped around short projecting knobs (1) on lower rim; height, 41 inches (for details see 77, p. 401). f, Fagatau, Tuamotu (Bishop Mus., B3692): shark-skin cover missing but single circumferential braid (1) remained in position with tautening braids looped over it; lower attachment to hoop (2) and lower ends of braid carried down in some pattern which has become disarranged; height, 47 inches. g, Marquesas (Bishop Mus., 8001): upper band (1) of circumferential braid which passes through alternate slits in skin cover in ten courses to form continuous band, five braids externally and five beneath cover; tautening braids (2) passed through loops so formed and lower ends attached to hoop (3) fastened to body of drum through large (4) and small (5) slots: turns of flat coir plaiting (6) used to cover knots to hoop have slipped out of position, h, Hawaii (Bishop Mus., 4849): tautening braids passed around lozenge-shaped loops (1) formed of olona fiber cord and attached below around vertical parts (2) of open woodwork; height, 15 inches; top diameter, 12 inches.
The early drum was a section of tree trunk hollowed out from either end and with a septum left intact between the two hollows nearer the lower end. A shark-skin cover was fitted over the upper opening and drawn taut by vertical lengths of braid which were fastened below. The Cook Islands form of fixation above and below is the simplest and probably the oldest technique. This technique was retained in the Cook, Society, and Austral Islands, but each group developed its own form of ornamentation in painting or carving. The Austral Islands made an independent departure from the original lower slot fixation to the projecting knob fixation, a departure probably stimulated by the elaboration of carving in which projecting human heads formed a feature. The departure probably took place late in the period of pre-European settlement because the older slot fixation still persisted in two drums out of ten examined, and all the others had the lower small rectangular slots.
It is evident that, the early form of fixation was departed from in the other areas. In the upper fixation, Mangareva and Tuamotu adopted the simplest form of indirect fixation, with one length of braid passing through the holes around the circumferential edge of the shark-skin cover. The Marquesas went a step farther in making several turns of the circumferential braid so that a continuous band of three to five lengths of braid was visible on the outside of the cover. Hawaii varied the indirect method by using two pairs of olona cords instead of sennit to form a characteristic lozenge pattern. Thus, though the drum may have belonged to an early period, a good deal of variation in technique and ornamentation took place during the second period.
Slit gongs were present in the Cook, Society, and Austral Islands and are said to have been used in Mangareva (77, p. 399). They were unknown in the Marquesas, Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand but were well established in Samoa and Tonga. They occur in Fiji and throughout Melanesia. From the distribution, it may be assumed that the slit gong spread from Fiji to Tonga and Samoa, thence to central Polynesia and along the eastern radial to Mangareva. Its absence, like the absence of the shark-skin drum in New Zealand, might be attributed to abandonment or rejection. However, its absence in Hawaii where the shark-skin drum was used, raises the question as to whether or not it had reached central Polynesia before the ancestors of the page 460New Zealanders and Hawaiians had left the Society Islands. Rarotongan tradition states that their ancestor, Tangiia, obtained the shell trumpet (pu), shark-skin drum (pa'u), and slit gong (ka'ara) from the gods on a temple in 'Avaiki (p. 274). However, traditional evidence as to age is liable to error through later interpolations. It would be natural enough for a late historian to complete a list of important musical instruments by adding a later slit gong to the older shell trumpet and shark-skin drum. In spite of tradition, I believe that the slit gong came into the Cook Islands after the shell trumpet and the shark-skin drum.
An occasional shell trumpet is to be found in use by bakers to call their rounds. The shark-skin drums are no longer made but a substitute covered with cowhide and beaten with a stick after the manner of European drums is sometimes used to give time in native dances. The ka'ara type of wooden gong has completely disappeared but the pate type (fig. 162) is still made to mark time in dances and to call attention before making public announcements.