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Samoan Material Culture



Some implements not so intimately associated with the cooking house but still used in connection with food are here described.

Coconut husker (mele'i). A stake of olamea, poumuli, or some hard wood, about 3 to 4 feet long and 1.5 inches in diameter, sharpened at both ends, is used for husking coconuts. If a hard wood is not at hand, fau is used.

The lower end with an ordinary point is driven into the ground at a slant. The upper end is cut on a single bevel to form a convex cutting edge with the round section of the stake. The side cutting edge point of the stake penetrates more readily through the longitudinal fibres of the husk. The coconut is held at the ends with both hands, and driven down on the point with its long axis corresponding with the wide axis of the point. The far side of the nut is applied to the point so that the blow forces the point through a segment of the husk with the nut towards the husker. The husk segment is torn off by levering the nut towards the body. Successive segments are removed in this way until the nut is denuded of husk. If the point of the stake does not come right through a segment on the downward blow, the nut is pressed down until the point comes through. Husking takes place in the plantation and the nuts are carried home in baskets slung on a pole. Both green and mature nuts are husked in this manner. The common name of the husker is mele'i, but Pratt (23, p. 50) also gives o'a.

Climbing bandage (aufanga). To facilitate the climbing of coconut trees to obtain drinking nuts a loop of fau bark is sometimes used. (See Pl. V, B.)

Both feet are placed in the loop so that the ends pass over the dorsum and under the instep. The climber grasps the palm trunk high up, draws up his feet and rests the climbing bandage against the trunk where it takes a grip against the rough surface. He straightens up the body, takes another hand grip higher up, and draws himself up for another bandage grip. For ordinary trees, the climber usually walks up on all fours, the hands clasping the trunk on the side away from the feet. In tall trees, the bandage enables the climber to rest on the bandage and relieve the strain on the arms.

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Breadfruit pickers (lou'ulu). The breadfruit out of reach are detached from the tree with a long pole usually of fau, with a fork at the end. Three forms, the "X" picker, the "Y" picker, and the netted picker, are in use. (See fig. 68.) The "X" picker is the most common. (See Plate VI, A.)

Figure 68.—Breadfruit picker (lou'ulu):

Figure 68.—Breadfruit picker (lou'ulu):

a, "Y"-shaped picker, a long pole with a natural fork formed by two branches which are cut off to form two prongs a few inches long. The fork is twisted around the stalk of the fruit to snap it. It is an emergency form not in common use. b, c, and d, "X"-shaped picker with fork made by lashing a 15 inch length of rod, sharpened at both ends, to the top of a long, straight pole also sharpened; b, a length of braid is tied with a running noose (3) to the long pole (1) about 4.5 inches from the end, and the short rod (2) crossed at an acute angle with their upper ends level; c, the braid is passed behind the short rod, drawn around it to the front and passed backwards between the two wooden elements to make a similar turn around the pole. In this way turns are made alternately around the rod and the pole, the braid passing backwards between the two and working upwards until 8 or more turns have been made. The top turn around the pole is brought down behind the lashing to 2 inches below the commencement (3) where the braid is tied around the pole with an overhand knot (4); d, a second set of lashing turns is repeated in the same way, but the turns work downwards. The first turn from the knot (4) passes in front of the rod so that the crossings between the pole and the rod are made forward instead of backwards as in the upper lashing. After the 8th turn around the rod, the braid is run longitudinally upwards between the pole and rod (5), over the front of the upper lashing, and then down at the back to continue a few more turns around each element to continue the lower lashing downwards to the point (6). Three loose turns are made around the pole alone and the end of the braid pushed upwards under them. Each loose turn is drawn taut commencing above and the braid also pulled taut. This is the usual method of fixing the end of a single braid, but in the picker figured, two other turns (7) were made lower down and a single turn (8) lower again to finish off the lashing. The actual middle point where the rod and pole cross is between the lashings. The sets of lashing on either side of the crossing point maintain the two wooden elements at the right acute angle. The figures (c) and (d) show views at different angles to explain the technique.

In the "X" picker the angle included by the two arms is more acute than in the "Y" picker, making it easier to remove the fruit. If the fruit stalk is missed by the front angle it may be hooked with the arms at the back and pulled off. The netted picker consists of the ordinary "Y" picker with somewhat more divergent arms to which a bag net is attached. This is termed fangafanga and not 'upenga. The stages of manufacture are shown in figure 69. In attaching to the handle, the circumference is arranged so that the sennit braid from the last knot is at the junction of the arms. Two or three circum-page 117ferential meshes on either side are threaded over the two arms of the fork. The sennit end with the hank is drawn taut and tied to the handle. (See fig. 70.) The netted picker is used at Fitiuta in Tau where the ground is covered with sharp pointed lava which would break the fruit if it fell to the ground.

Figure 69.—Breadfruit picker net-technique:

Figure 69.—Breadfruit picker net-technique:

a, the free end of a small working hank of sennit is doubled back to form a circle about 3 inches in diameter and tied with an overhand knot (1) and a closed loop is hooked over the big toe to form a suspensory loop (2) around the circumference of which a row of mesh loops is to be attached; b, the hank (3) is passed over the suspensory loop about an inch to the right of the knot (1) to form the first mesh (1') which is gauged to about 1.3 inches deep by the left middle finger pulling it against the hank held by the right hand; c, the left thumb and forefinger pinch up the suspensory loop on either side of the crossing braid to form it into a loop at (4); d, the hank now makes a loose loop (5) on the right, passes to the left over the two limbs of the loop (4) still held by the left finger and thumb, passes back to the right under them, and up through the loop (5) on the right, the hank is drawn taut and the left fingers let go (this is the netting knot which is used throughout); e, the first mesh (1') is formed by drawing the netting knot taut at (6), the second mesh (2') by passing the hank, on inch to the right of the last knot, over the suspensory loop which is again pinched up to form another loop (7) and the netting knot is made in exactly the same way as the first; f, the meshes are continued around the circumference making each knot an inch to the right, which brings the knot of the last mesh (9') close to the commencing knot (1) and the first row of meshes is completed. The pinching up of the suspensory loop by each mesh knot leaves its circular diameter about 1.5 inches and forms the bottom of the net. g, The second row is commenced by passing the hank from the knot of the last mesh (9') over and through the first mesh (1'). The bottom of the new mesh (1") must be gauged to the level to be taken by the lower ends of the meshes of the second row. The same netting knot is tied, but here it is easier as a loop has not to be pinched up. h, The second row is formed by working to the right and tying the netting knot successively to each mesh of the first row. The left middle finger gauges the meshes so that the bottom coincides in depth with the first mesh (1"). The figure shows the completed second row flattened out, but in the actual netting, the suspensory loop is rotated on the big toe and each mesh is gauged in depth from the one preceding. After making the last knot on loop (9') the next mesh closes the second row and commences a new row. To make the new mesh much deeper than the bottom of the mesh (1") would be to make a very large mesh which would go on increasing in size after the first of each row. It is therefore shortened practically to the same level as (1") to which it is attached. The next mesh gives the true lower level of the third row. The meshes gradually increase in size to about 3 to 3.25 inches in depth. The successive rows are continued until the net is about a foot in depth.

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Breadfruit pickers are easily made so they are not saved up for the future season. Though there are about three crops in one year, a new picker is made for each. Hence the saying: "O le fuata ma lona lou" (The breadfruit crop and its picker).

Figure 70.—Breadfruit picker, net attachment:

Figure 70.—Breadfruit picker, net attachment:

1, lashing of end braid of net to handle. A piece of braid (2) is tied to the end of one of the arms, passed through a couple of circumferential meshes, drawn taut, and tied to the other arm. The cross braid (2) is called the fau ta'i and is important as it falls on the far side of fruit as the net is brought down over it. It leads (ta'i) the fruit into the net where the stalk is caught in the fork. The picker is then twisted to bring the net underneath. As the stalk snaps the fruit is left in the net.

Carrying poles (amo). Burdens are carried slung to either end of a pole, which is balanced on one shoulder. The pole is nearly always of fau. Since bush knives are always carried to the cultivations, a pole is quickly made by cutting down a sapling and making a notch at either end. The form of notch in figure 71a is the usual one. If, owing to a basket being too full, both sides of the midrib rim will not stay together, the rim to the outer side is kept in the notch. (See Plate VII, D.)

Figure 71.—Carrying pole (amo):

Figure 71.—Carrying pole (amo):

a, ordinary pole of fau, with square notch cut near ends. b, Fau pole, 2 inches in diameter with ends trimmed to form a knob about 2 inches long, 1.25 inches wide on inner side and 1 inch wide on outer side. The inner side of the knob is about 0.8 inches deep; side view above and upper view below.

Some poles are shaped like that shown in Plate VII B and figure 71b. This pole has two fire grooves on the under surface opposite the notch and is slightly concave longitudinally on the under surface, caused by the shaping, combined probably with the effect of the weight at the ends when the pole was green.

The coconut water bottles are carried on a much shorter pole. The poles are in common use in Samoa. Many of the men have fibrous lumps on the shoulders caused by continual use of the carrying pole. Even with one basket of food, a Samoan would sooner carry it slung over his back on a pole than in his hand.

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Carrying straps (faufafa). Women carry large bundles of leaves for the oven, sugar cane leaves, and other material strapped to the back by strips of bark. To carry on the back is fafa, and the burden fafanga. The bark of the fau, fu'afu'a, or the fue creeper are used for tying on the burden. These bark strips are termed faufafa. Pratt (23, p. 120) gives faufili as a cord used for tying on the burden. There may be a distinction to denote plaiting from fili, to plait. Another term, avei, is also used.

The bundle is first tied together. A single strip of the tying material is passed vertically over the back of the burden on one side. The long end of the strip passes over the shoulder on that side, then diagonally downwards across the chest, under the burden, vertically upwards at the back, over the shoulder, and diagonally across the chest to meet the other end to which it is tied in front.