Samoan Material Culture
Two-ply twist (maea fu'a lua). Rough ropes of fau bast are quickly made. Little attention is paid to straggly ends. (See Plate XX, A, 1.) New strands are added by doubling down the short end on the other ply as in the sennit two-ply cord. The joins are easily detected from the wide strip of bast showing the change of direction where they cross to the other ply. No extra scraping is devoted to the material. The individual plies are twisted to the right and then crossed over the other ply from above downwards and to the left.
Figure 135.—Five-ply braid:
a, three plies are shown as in commencing a three-ply braid where 3 comes in from the right; b, four plies are shown as in four-ply braid where the last one (4) comes in from the other side on the left; c, a fifth ply (5) is now added of necessity from the right and it crosses over the two plies (2 and 4). The plies are now set up for braiding. d, As the three plies in (c) are on the left, the outside ply on the left (1) is crossed over the other two (3 and 5) to the middle position; e, the three plies in (d) are on the right. The outside ply on the right (2) is crossed over the other two (4 and 1) to the middle position. f, The alternate crossing of the outside ply of three to the middle position results in the development of the braid.
A better rope is made by scraping the bast more thoroughly and plaiting with a tighter twist. (See Plate XX, A, 2.) The new strands are added by page 246overlapping on one ply and twisting them together without doubling the short end over on the other ply. The particular rope figured had been soaked in a yellow solution evidently of turmeric root.
The better two-ply ropes were used in the house as lines between the walls on which to suspend dividing curtains or mosquito curtains. In Tutuila, the term for twisting the plies together was given as lafo to distinguish it from the milo and fili processes.
Three-ply braid (maea fili tolu). A fairly thick three-ply braid rope is made from fibre in the same way as three-ply 'af a except that the end is tied to a stake or coiled round the big toe. The plaiting is therefore towards the body and the outside plies are brought over the middle ply to take its position. Thicker strands of fa'ata'a are rolled to the size required for a ply. The simple overlapping join is used in adding new strands as well as the doubled over join. A rope seen in the plaiting process in Savaii was for the purpose of making a trap to catch wild pigs.
Three-ply twisted ropes. Three-ply twisted ropes were stated not to have been made of fau bast. In the Cook Islands, three-ply twisted ropes of this material (fau) were regarded as the strongest ropes and, in their mythology, was the type of rope used by Maui in snaring the sun. In Samoa, when extra strength was required, the material used was coconut fibre.
A three-ply twisted rope now in common use in Samoa (Plate XX, A, 3) is, however, of foreign make and material but is shown as it is now used in making the shark nooses still in common use.
Shark rope. The proper Samoan shark rope (maea noa malie) is a three-ply twisted rope in which each ply is formed of a number of strands of the common three-ply braid ('afa). Ripley of Leone stated that as many as nine strands were used in each ply. Five fathoms of untwisted sennit braid will make 4.25 fathoms of rope. Half the total number of strands required, but of twice the length, are doubled at the middle. A space is left at the looped end to form the eye for a loop and a stick is passed through. The stick is suspended and lashed against a beam, so that it will not rotate. The strands are lashed together with a piece of cord beneath the stick. The strands are divided into three equal parts to form plies. Each ply thus formed is taken charge of by an assistant who ties a short cross stick to the lower end of his ply. The chief rope maker uses a mature, dry, unhusked coconut (popo) with three longitudinal grooves cut to correspond with the plies. This is inserted under the plies close to the upper binding around the strands. The three assistants then twist their sticks in the same direction so as to twist the strands of their respective plies. As the plies become closely twisted, they are allowed to twist around each other to form the rope. The chief rope maker manipulates the coconut husk gage by moving it downwards as the assistants walk around in page 247the same direction. The process is continued until the rope is completed. The three-ply twist makes a very strong rope that will hold any shark. The further treatment to form a noose is dealt with on page 422.
Three-ply composite braid ('afa'afalua). A composite three-ply braid rope is made of a number of strands of ordinary three-ply braid. One rope in Bishop Museum contains three strands in each ply; another, Plate XX, A, 4, started with three, four, and five strands, but finished with four strands in each ply.
In these ropes, the old braid from dismantled houses was used over again. Short lengths could thus be economically used and as a particular strand in a ply shortened, a fresh piece was added by doubling over the short end in another ply. The rope, therefore, looked somewhat untidy, but was very strong. These ropes are used in lashing houses during heavy storms of wind.
Five-ply braid rope (maea tua lima). The five-ply braid rope (Plate XX, A, 5) is made in the same way as the five-ply braid illustrated in figure 135. The strands of coconut fibre are not rolled with individual binding fibres and the joins are by the simple overlapping of ends on the one ply. The rope besides being very strong is neat in appearance and finish. These ropes were seen in use as the bottom rope of large nets and the line for shark bait floats.