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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)



Material. The thinner cords for fishing lines or nets were made of the oronga, purautea, papako and hau. In all these the bark was soaked in sea water for three or four days, and the bast separated from the other bark. The bast was dried and used when desired. For the finer page 63cords the bast may be beaten to separate the fibres. All the above were used with the two-ply technique.

Sinnet fibre was also used for two-ply twisted cords or three-ply braid. Long cocoanuts were selected for the longer length of fibre. The nut is husked and the fibrous material soaked in sea water. The fibres lie parallel with a fair amount of useless material between the fibres. The fibrous material is then beaten on a rock, or on wood, to separate the fibres and get rid of the interfibrous material.

Two-ply Twisted Cords, aho. Strips of bast of the requisite thickness were rolled as two separate cords on the bare thigh, and then with a back movement rolled together over each other. This process is termed hiro. It is identical with the Maori miro and like it refers only to rolling material on the bare thigh. The ends of fresh strips of material were merely overlapped over the shortening end of another, and the rolling joined them. Very long lines were made for seine nets.

Sinnet fibre was also used for a two-ply twisted cord. The amount of fibre required for one strand of the cord was picked out and rolled together on the bare thigh. This rolling of single pieces was also called hiro. They were joined together by overlapping as with the other material. It was usual for an assistant to roll the single strips whilst the principal twisted the cord.

The cord from the oronga is the strongest and lasts the longest. The papako cord is used for large nets with a big mesh, uhauha, to catch big fish such as the ava, urua, shark and even sting-ray and turtle. For all ordinary purposes, the hau cord is much used. The sinnet cord, though used for lines, was not so popularly made as it was rougher to the skin whilst being rolled on the bare thigh.

Three-ply Braid, kaha. This was made of sinnet fibre and was used for a variety of purposes, such as the lashings of adze heads, roofing, canoes, etc. It was also used in definite lashing patterns to provide ornamentation. In this connection, no information was obtained.

The technique of the small braid is interesting in that the three elements are held between the left thumb and forefinger, and the plaiting is directed away from the body. Though the plaiting of a three-ply braid is so universally known, local methods of technique are not without interest. Holding the ends of the three strands firmly between the page 64left thumb and forefinger as shown in Fig. 64A, the right hand seizes the middle strand and brings it back under the right-hand strand 2 as in B. At the same time, the thumb
Figure 64. Plaiting three-ply sinnet braid.

Figure 64.
Plaiting three-ply sinnet braid.

rolls the right-hand strand 2 into the middle position. The middle strand 2 is seized with the right hand and brought back under the left hand strand 3, whilst the thumb rolls the strand 3 into the middle position as in C. It will be noted that the right hand brings the strand well and tightly back so as to make a compact braid. As the thumb assists in rolling the new middle element into position, it keeps firm pressure on the crossed strands to prevent slackening. The middle strand 3 is now brought back under the right-hand strand 1 as in D. This process is continued. The middle strand is brought under first to the right, and then to the left, and results in a braid E. As the plaiting proceeds, the thumb and forefinger work forward on the working part, and the completed braid works back through the hand.
As the sinnet fibre is fairly short fresh pieces have to be continually added. The join is called a pahu. The first
Figure 65. Pahu join of sinnet braid.

Figure 65.
Pahu join of sinnet braid.

page 65 strand is generally added when the shortening strand passes to the right as strand 3, in Fig. 65A. The end of the fresh piece 4 is passed under the middle strand 1, and laid along the course of the shortening strand, 3. Following the ordinary technique, the middle strand 1 is passed under to the left, as in B. The middle strand 2 is then passed under the strand on the right which is the new piece 4, and the end of the old strand 3, as in C. The plaiting continues in the orthodox way, and the new piece is simply fixed by the crossing of the braid.