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Samoan Material Culture

Coconut Leaf Sweeps

Coconut Leaf Sweeps

The long leaf sweep (lauloa). The lauloa method of fishing is one shared by the village community and gives much enjoyment during operations. A long sweep is obtained by attaching coconut leaves to strong vines and, by means of it, fish are driven into a set net. A description of a lauloa sweep at Fangamalo, Savaii, will explain the method and also give an insight into how cooperation is secured in the village.

The matai heads of families meet together in one of the guest houses and over a bowl of kava decide to have a lauloa (lau, leaf; loa, long) which is the name given to the method of fishing as well as the means. The tautai or head fisherman is, of course, present and discusses the tide and time. The meeting decides that ten fathoms of leaf from each family will make a sufficiently long lauloa. The news is promulgated and the head of each family sends one of the young men (aumanga) to the woods to get ten fathoms of the fue vai vine. Others collect green, coconut leaves, split them down the midrib and thin the midrib strips down. The young man returns with a coil of vine and throws it down in front of the family dwelling house. The family head ties a knot at one end of the vine and after measuring off ten full-arm spans, ties another knot. The vine is stretched waist high between two trees and the part between the two knots filled in.

The end of the first midrib strip is passed through the left knot and doubled back. The midrib strip is then wound spirally round the vine and two or three close turns taken over the doubled-back end so as to bury and fix it. Every here and there, a leaflet is wound round and round both the midrib and the vine, and the end passed between them and pulled down. The subsequent windings of the midrib keeps the leaflet end against the vine and fixes it. The leaflet windings prevent the midrib strip from slipping. Just before the midrib strip ends, the vine is split (now with a knife), the end of the new strip is passed through the slit and doubled forward. The end of the shortening strip takes some spiral turns round the doubled forward new end and then the new strip continues its spiral turns over both of them and fixes them. The addition of fresh midrib strips is continued up to the second knot, when the end is fixed by passing it through the knot and tying it in an overhand knot. In Plate XLI, G, the leaflets are shown projecting out from the vine in all directions. The ten fathoms are then coiled and left for the assembling on the morrow. Each family has its ten fathoms in waiting.

The lauloa is worked in conjunction with a meshed net of cord set in the channel. The head fisherman and a few assistants set the net which has two wings forming a "V" with a bag or purse at the junction of the arms. The net has a top rope with wooden floats while the bottom rope is weighted down on the bottom with large stones picked up in the vicinity. The two wings of the net are further lengthened on either side by banana leaves tied to a vine. The vine is weighted down while the banana leaves float vertically, page 430forming a fence. Though fish may easily pass between the banana leaves and the leaflets of the sweep, they will not do so owing to the movement of the leaves. They pass on into the wings of the net and always make for an opening while there is one. (See figure 255 a.)

While the set net is being attended to, all the leaf sections of ten fathoms are assembled on the bench, each section being called a fanganiu. Instead of being loaded onto various small canoes, the presence of a large whale boat enabled all the section to be loaded in one vessl. The boat with its freight of leaves and men is pulled across to the reef at 4 p.m. at some considerable distance from the set net. The first section is dropped overboard after tying an end to another section. Some men seize the other end and carry it out on the reef to the highest dry part, just within the breaking of the sea rollers. This is to prevent any fish escaping between the end and the reef. The boat then pulls slowly back in a curve paying out the leaf, which has the sections joined together in the boat as fast as they are being paid out. (There is always a clear piece of vine at each end.) The ends are drawn together to join up the leafy parts and the vine is tied in a reef knot. The second in command superintends the paying out and giving directions. He is assisted vocally by everyone present. The men and women of the village appear as by magic all along the proposed course of the lauloa, which they judge by the movements of the boat. Men jump off the boat to take up positions behind the lauloa as it is paid out. The leaf is paid out in a long curve and the shore end is carried forward to the level of the reef end. The two ends are dragged forward towards the wings of the set net and the people evenly spaced along the intermediate part push their part forward in the general advance. Most people carry a pole with which they beat the water or rest on when in parts of the lagoon that are deeper than usual. The lauloa is drawn on a falling tide setting towards the open wings of the set net. Thus, by shaking leaves, and shouts, and laughter, the fish are driven forward towards the net. When at the right distance, the two ends of the leaf chain are converged towards the ends of the banana leaf wings. As the line of lauloa contracts inwards the slack is doubled along the margin to reinforce the line in the event any fish are frightened back. The contracting movement is continued until the leaf is closed right up against the wings of the net. By this time all taking part have crowded together, anxious to see the catch. All the fish having been driven into the net purse, the opening of the purse is constricted with the hands. The purse with its load of fish is lifted bodily up into the head fisherman's canoe, which is anchored alongside. The end of the purse is unlaced and the catch emptied out. There is time to draw the lauloa only once on the tide. The fish are taken ashore and subsequently divided amongst the families who had contributed their sections to the lauloa.

page 431

Short leaf sweep with mat cone (tu'i.) The tu'i variation of the lauloa was described to me at Salailua, Savaii. The receptacle to receive the fish is made of fala floor mats contributed by the village. The mats are stitched together to form a cone (tu'i) and used in conjunction with two sections of coconut leaf sweeps. (See figure 255, b, c.)

Figure 255.—Coconut leaf sweeps:

Figure 255.—Coconut leaf sweeps:

a, the lauloa coconut leaf sweep with winged net. The purse net (1) with its wings (2) spread is set in the channel with the extensions (3) of banana leaf (lau fa'i). The coconut leaf sweep (4, 5) is carried along in a curve in the directions of the arrows to meet the banana leaf extensions of the set net. b, Leaf sweep with mat cone (tu'i): side view of (tu'i) cone made of from 50 to 200 floor mats sewn together with sennit braid for which holes are pierced through the overlapping edges of the mats with a pointed stick. The mats at the entrance (1) are turned up at the sides but do not meet above. Further back they meet (2) and are sewn together to form a closed cone. A sennit loop is attached above where the closed part commences to support a pole (4) which is held up to keep the entrance opening patent. Stones (5) are placed on the bottom of the entrance (mata niu) to anchor the cone to the bottom, a stone (6) tied to the end of the cone to keep it straight is termed a taula (anchor). c, The mat cone (1) is set close to the shore, a leaf sweep (2) with one end stationary on the outer side of the cone is stretched out towards the reef. A second leaf sweep (3) is stretched some distance away, parallel with the first and with its near end reaching the shore. The first sweep (2) pivots on its stationary end and the two sweeps move in the direction of the arrows until the outer ends meet. d, Leaf sweep with scoop net for i'a sina: the 'enu scoop net (1) is set; two leaf sweeps (2, 3) with one end stationary on either side of the net are swept around in a curve until the outer ends (taiao) meet when they are tied together (soso'o), the curved sides are brought together (fo le lau), and the fish driven into the net which the expert in charge lifts (to 'enu), empties into a basket and sets again for the process to be repeated. The leaf sweeps used are short ranging from 6 to 12 fathoms in length.

The outer ends of the sections of coconut sweep are termed taiao or taiulu. The section which reaches to the beach is termed taiao fonua. As before, the chief fisherman is in command at the receiving (tu'i), while the second in command superintends the sweeping in of the ends. The two sections of leaves are dragged until the outer ends meet. The command, "Soso'o taiao'" (Join the ends), is given and the outer ends of the two sections are brought together and tied. This tie is never unfastened. The people call, "Ua soso'o" (They are joined). Then comes the command, "Talai lau, fai tua fa" (Unknot the leaf, overlap to four thicknesses). The small individual sections are unknotted as the sweep narrows in and sections are overlapped to four thicknesses. As the area further diminishes the slack is taken in on subsequent page 432commands to six and eight thicknesses of overlap. The people support the sides of the tu'i as well as the narrowing lauloa. Women armed with scoop nets may catch any fish as the leaf sweeps close in. When closed right in, the unroofed front part of the tu'i is raised as a flap to close the entrance. When fish are plentiful, the chief fisherman may order the scoop nets to be used in scooping fish up into the canoes. If the tu'i can hold all the fish, poles are passed under it and the whole mass lifted up and carried ashore.

Short leaf sweep with scoop net. At Salelolonga, Savaii, two short sweeps (lau) are used to drive shoals of i'a sina into a scoop net ('enu) managed by an expert. The short sweeps from their particular use receive the name of lau i'a sina. They are a modification of the long lauloa sweep, adapted for a particular shoal fish and employing fewer people. In the same district the atule is caught similarly. (See figure 255, d.)