Ethnology of Tongareva
All Tongarevan baskets or satchels are made of coconut leaf. None of the small satchels made of lauhala, so common in Manihiki, were seen, and if such are made, they are a modern innovation.
The unsplit midrib basket (raurau) for carrying food is in common use. (See pl. 4.) It is made from a section of unsplit coconut leaf in which the leaflets from both sides enter into the plaiting. The unsplit leaf midrib forms the bottom, and the upper edges are finished off with a three-ply braid which forms the rim. The first part of the technique consists of plaiting all the leaflets of one side of the leaf with a check stroke into a sheet, and the left and right side edges are turned in. The far edge is then finished off with a three-ply braid. (See fig. 15.)
The leaf is turned to place the unplaited leaflets on the far side of the leaf midrib, which is kept transversely before the plaiter. A second sheet to form the other side of the basket is now commenced. It is plaited with a check stroke like the first side, but the two ends are formed by interlacing leaflets through the side edges of the completed first sheet. The braid finish of the top is then completed. (See fig. 16.)page 131
Figure 15. Raurau basket made from 2-foot section of leaf and carrying 19 pairs of leaflets, first side. Plaiting commences on left side of leaf with leaflets forming natural dextrals; leaflets after first (1) dealt with in pairs; leaflet on right treated as sinistral by being bent over its pair mate, which remains in its natural direction as dextral; of first pair (2, 3) right leaflet (3) bent as sinistral over left leaflet (2) which continues as dextral; similarly, leaflet (5) bent over 4, and so throughout; left edge formed by bending first sinistral (3) with half turn forward over next sinistral (5), and so successively as sinistrals reach left edge; full working edge of eight dextrals thus formed when sinistral (9) is placed in its shed; depth of the plaiting is carried along toward right; when last sinistral (19) crosses last dextral (18) right edge is formed by turning in dextrals successively to act as sinistrals; dextrals 18, 16, 14, and 12 successively turned in to form right edge and check sheet completed. Top edge finished by commencing braid on left with first three wefts (9, 7, 11) which form the three commencing plies; remaining wefts successively added, dextrals (5, 3, etc.) entering braid on near side and sinistrals (13, 15, etc.) passing under braid and then over to enter braid with far ply; on reaching right, braid continued as free tail and finished off with single overhand knot.
Three types of twilled baskets are made, the taunga, kete, and tupono. All are made with closed leaflets; hence, the two leaflet-bearing strips from each side of the leaf are used to provide two natural sets of crossing wefts. The leaflets are twisted over each other at the midrib strip as in figure 14, a and b, and the two-strip commencement with the sinistral strip above is used as in figure 14, c. The free edges of the leaflet wefts are trimmed off to make the wefts of even width, and, should the spaces between wefts become too wide, extra single wefts are inserted to fill the spaces as they occur. The midrib strips form the rim of the basket. The baskets are plaited on the flat like a sheet, but the side edges are not defined as in the raurau basket. The free ends of the sinistrals on the left and of the dextrals on the right project beyond the plaited sheet, and they form two oblique side edges. As in the two-strip commencement (fig. 14, c), the two strips are fixed together by a single horizontal row of check dextrals, after which the plaiting stroke consists of a twilled-two. When the page 132 plaiting has proceeded deep enough the two ends are brought together and joined as in figure 17.
Figure 16. Raurau basket, second side and braid finish. a, shaded wefts (1′–5′) represent completed side edge of first side; natural direction of unplaited leaflets toward left thus forms natural sinistrals; plaiting commences on left with first leaflet (1) crossed over second (2) to act as dextral; subsequent plaiting follows this order, so that of each subsequent pair of leaflets the one on left turned over next on right to form dextrals; after being crossed by first dextral (1), first sinistral (2) reaches left side edge; first sinistral given half turn to bring it back into plaiting but passed under nearest weft (1′) of completed first side after the turn; next sinistral (4) reaches side edge, is turned and passed under nearest weft (2′) of completed side; similarly, sinistrals (6, 8, 10) necessarily turned and passed under appropriate wefts (3′, 4′, 5′) of completed side; depth of sheet now reached and working edge carried at this depth to right; when right edge is reached dextrals are successively turned in and passed under appropriate wefts of completed side in manner similar to left edge described; both ends of basket thus closed. Braid finish commenced on left by bending in free tail braid (20) of first side to tie along top edge of completed plaiting of second side; first three wefts (10, 8, 12) on left used to commence the three plies of second braid; weft (10) brought along lower edge of tail (20); sinistral weft (12) passes under tail to its far side; dextral (8) passes over weft (10) from near side; far weft (12) brought over tail and crossed over weft (8) to middle position; the three plies thus established. b, wefts dealt with in successive pairs consisting of sinistral and dextral; sinistral passes under tail (20) and new braid passes to far side, from which it enters braid with far ply while dextral directly enters near ply; sinistrals (12, 14) have entered alternate outer plies while next sinistral (16) is about to join third outer ply in middle position; dextral (6) has entered ply from that formed by first dextral (8) while next dextral (4) has entered alternate inner ply from 6; irregularity due to establishing commencement; wefts may enter successive or alternate plies to suit plaiter; tail (20) which lies at back of new braid is bound to it by turns of sinistral wefts which pass around it; when braid reaches end of tail it continues in same way, sinistrals passed under and around it to enter with outer plies; when right edge of basket is reached, plies plaited on in free braid tail which is knotted at end; free tail then interlaced through opposite side between wefts below its braided rim.
Figure 17. Twilled baskets, extra wefts and end join: a, right end of plaiting; b, left end. Space between sinistral wefts (1, 2) too wide so single closed leaflet (3) inserted as extra weft with butt end between the two midrib strips, plaited in usual way; sinistrals have all been twisted forward to left under weft in front; weft (20) on right being first to commence, twisting has no weft through loop formed between it and next weft; left end of plaiting (b) brought around in apposition to right end (a); free weft (4), passed through under loop formed by end weft (20) in a as indicated by arrow; two ends (a, b) drawn together; weft (4) passes through loop of weft (20), fixes join. Similar technique adopted with ends of dextral strip.
The projecting free ends of the wefts are dealt with by a three-ply braid technique so as to close the two sides together, and they form the bottom of the basket. To avoid confusion with a multiplicity of projecting wefts, the dextral wefts are put out of the way while the last working section is being plaited. In each movement of the last section, after the working sinistral is laid in the shed, the top dextral, instead of being discarded, is turned downward on the working sinistral and included under the top crossing dextral to keep it in the downward position out of the way. As a result, when the last working section is completed and has brought the basket to its full depth, only the sinistral set of wefts projects upward from the completed top plaited edge.
The plaited cuff is compressed to bring the sides together, and the line formed by the plaited edge on either side is placed longitudinally to the plaiter. Plaiting commences at the far end, and it is the object to close the patent line by crossing leaflets alternately from either side to form the plies of a three-ply braid.
To appreciate the Tongarevan methods, it is necessary to have in mind the Polynesian methods of closing the patent line at the bottom of baskets. page 134 Two Polynesian braid finishes of basket (satchel) bottoms are known to me, the single-course and two-course braid finishes. The single-course braid finish is used in rough baskets made with open leaflet wefts. With the bottom in position and the sides pressed together, the farthest sinistral and dextral of one side are crossed over the middle line as one ply. The farthest dextral and sinistral pair on the opposite side is crossed over the first ply as the second ply. The next pair of dextral and sinistral wefts on the first side is crossed over the second ply, as the third ply. As the back ply is alternately crossed over to the middle position, a pair of wefts from the same side as the ply is pulled taut and added to the ply, occupying the middle position. When the near end of the basket bottom is reached the bottom is not only closed, but all the free leaflet wefts from either side have been incorporated in the braid. Nothing now remains but to continue the plies in a braided free tail and to fix the ends with an overhand knot. The braid tail is pushed through the plaiting below to place the knotted end inside the basket. The leaflets are taken up in pairs, regardless of their direction, and pulled toward the worker, so that all of the leaflets are disposed of in one course. The method is quick, but the braid is thick and rough in appearance.
The two-course braid finish (fig. 18) is neater and more secure, and is used for the better baskets. One set of wefts from either side is selected and braided singly for one course. In braiding the first course the set selected from either side is that which inclines toward the worker. The basket is then reversed and the remaining weft sets on either side, which now incline toward the worker, are also plaited singly to form a second course of braid. With the dextral wefts turned down and the basket bottom in position, the projecting sinistrals on the right are directed toward the worker, and those on the left are directed away from the worker. For the first course, therefore, the projecting free wefts on the right are utilized, but those on the left cannot be. Nothing remains but to pull up the dextral wefts on the left as required. When freed, the dextral wefts will be found to be directed toward the plaiter. Plaiting commences at the far end by pulling the farthest free weft on the right across the middle line to form the first ply. The farthest turned down dextral on the left is freed and pulled across the first ply to form the second ply. The next free weft on the right is crossed over the second ply to form the third ply. The braiding proceeds. After the back ply is pulled into the middle position the next weft on that side is added to it, and the crossing proceeds alternately from side to side until the course is completed. As indicated, the dextral wefts on the left are freed successively as they are required. The free sinistrals on the left side are left projecting, care being exercised after the dextral is page 135 freed to see that it bears the plaiting relationship to the free sinistral that the plaiting technique demands. On reversing the basket after the completion of the first course, the remaining free projecting sinister wefts, now on the right side, are inclined toward the worker. The remaining set of turned down dextrals is on the left, and when freed, it is also directed toward the worker. Those wefts are braided singly from alternate sides to form the second course, which thus uses up all the wefts and securely closes the bottom of the basket. Variations in the manner of dealing with the two courses resulted in three forms of braid fiinish: the continuous, or single tail; the concealed two-tail; and the distinct two-tail.
Figure 18. Twilled baskets, two-course braid finish of bottom, side views: a, b, c, single tail; d, e, concealed two-tail; f, distinct two-tail. 1, far point of first course; 2, near point to plaiter. a, first course (3) has been completed; three plies (6, 7, 8) continued for few turns (9); remaining set of dextral wefts (4) turned down on right side and remaining set of sinistrals (5) projects upward and inclines away on left side of bottom. b, basket reversed by imagining worker at point 1; remaining sinistrals (5) on right directed toward worker, and turned down dextrals, now on left, also directed toward worker when freed; braid end (9) has been doubled over on first course (3); second course (10) formed by adding wefts from either side to plies (6, 7, 8) continued on from first course. c, on completion of second course (10), wefts continued on as single free tail (11) and knotted; two courses thus continuous without break except for turn over (9). d, from position in a, the three plies continued on to form free tail (11) which is knotted and doubled over (9) to lie on first course (3). e, remaining two sets of wefts plaited from far point (2) over top of doubled-over first tail (11) and on reaching near end (1) continued on as free tail (12) and knotted; thus each course terminated by braid tail, but one concealed under second course (10). f, first course finished off with braid tail (11), but left free instead of being doubled over as in d; second course (10) commenced at 2 and on reaching end continued on as free tail (12); thus the two tails distinct; all free tails pushed through into interior of basket.
In the three forms of two-course braid finish the full length of the free ends of the wefts is incorporated in the plies. In a finish not used in Tongareva the wefts, after two or more turns in the braid, are successively page 136 dropped so as to reduce the thickness of the braid. The ends are afterward cut off close to the braid.
The taunga basket is made from two strips from each side of a 20-inch section of leaf, so that when the strips are bent around to join the ends the basket is 10 inches long at the rim. The plaiting stroke is a twilled-two arranged in horizontal rows. The two-course braid finish is used at the bottom with the concealed two-tail technique (fig. 17, d, e; pl. 4, B).
The kete basket is larger than the taunga, but the technique is the same. The taunga is used as a container for pieces (ika tungatunga) of cooked fish. The fish is dried and kept for the days when fresh fish is not procurable, and is the correct diet complement to the hard takataka coconut. The larger kete is used as a container for freshly cooked whole fish. Any parts left over become ika tungatunga and are transferred to the taunga basket.
The tupono basket is larger than the kete and, on account of the length of the midrib rim and the shorter bottom, it is crescentic. (See pl. 3, C.) Variety in appearance is introduced by changing the direction of the horizontal twilled rows into vertical twills. On reaching the full depth, it is customary to change from the twill stroke into a row of checks to simplify the application of the two-course braid bottom. The two-course braid bottom follows the distinct two-tail technique (fig. 18, f). Except for the size, change of twill, and the variation in the braid bottom, the technique of the tupono is the same as that of the taunga and kete baskets.
The tupono is used for freshly caught fish, and small fish may also be driven or scooped up into it as if the tupono were a scoop net. The close plait of the baskets made with two leaflet-bearing strips renders the tupono effective as a fish scoop, whereas the wider interweft spaces of an open leaflet basket, such as the raurau, would allow small fish to escape. Similarly, the close plaiting of the taunga prevents small pieces of cooked fish from falling through. The coarser raurau is reserved for larger articles of food, such as coconuts. Technique and function affect each other reciprocally.
Because of the absence of the hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) and the oronga, the bast of which is used extensively in the Cook Islands and Tahiti as material for lines and cordage, the Tongarevans use the fibrous husk of the coconut and the skin of the coconut leaf midrib. Long strips of the skin from the upper surface of the coconut leaf midrib (tari) at the butt end are torn off for ordinary tying and for stringing fish. The strip is beaten and twisted to render it soft and pliable. Thus prepared, it is used in thatching houses (ato i te hare) and also for climbing bandages. The fibers page 137 of the coconut husk (puru) are soaked and beaten to remove the interfibrous material. Sennit two-ply twisted cord (hau ato) is then made by rolling the two-plies on the thigh, with fresh strands added. It is used for fishing lines, nets, and in processes such as the thatching of the better forms of houses. Sennit three-ply braid (kaha) is also made from the treated husk fibers of the nut. The braid is used for lashing the planks of canoes together and for lashing adzes.
The coconut roof sheet is so widely distributed in Polynesia that it needs no comment.
The pataro single wall screen, with the full leaf commencement (fig. 13), is peculiar. The full leaf commencement is found in Manihiki but not in the Cook Islands. An almost identical article is made in Tahiti, where Handy (10, p. 66, pl. 10, c) describes it as a paua tarii used as a sitting mat. It is not found in Samoa.
The double wall screen (pl. 2) is similar to the hapuka wall screen of Aitutaki (28, p. 32) and the Cook Islands. It also resembles the Samoan carrying sheet (29, pl. 12, e). The technique, however, differs slightly in that the two-course braid, connecting the two half sheets, is dealt with by the distinct two-tail finish (fig. 18, f), whereas in the Cook Islands and Samoa the finish consists of the continuous single tail technique (fig. 18, c).
The sitting mat (tapakau), made in twill with a two-strip commencement (fig. 14), is not found in the Cook Islands or in Tahiti. The technique, however, is used in Manihiki for wall screens, doors, and sitting mats and carries the Tongareva wall screen name of pataro.
Plaited oven covers (pl. 2) are not found in Tahiti and the Cook Islands, but they are found in New Zealand. Plaited covers were probably adopted because of the absence of suitable large-leaved plants, which provided the oven covers in other Polynesian areas.
The technique used in making the sleeping mat (pakere rei) with the mesial three-ply braid joining the two halves of the mat is not found in the Cook Islands and Tahiti. It is present in Manihiki and New Zealand. In New Zealand most wefts of flax are long enough to make the ordinary mats by adding them only on one side of the commencement braid (27, p. 716), but if the wefts are short the mesial braid with wefts added alternately on either side is used, as in the mats of Tongareva and Manihiki.
In Manihiki the sleeping mat is termed tapakau, and in Samoa the coconut leaf with a mesial midrib join (29, pl. 16, c) is also tapa'au. In New Zealand the finer sleeping mats are takapau, a word in which two consonants have become transposed. It is evident, therefore, that the Tongarevans page 138 wrongly applied the term takapau to the small sitting mat and were forced to invent the name, pakere rei, for the sleeping mat. The presence of the mesial braid commencement shows an advance in technique and skill in dealing with the meager material available.
The raurau basket (pl. 4) with the unsplit midrib at the bottom is not found in the Cook Islands, but it is described by Handy (10, pl. 3, A) for Tahiti. The Tahitian basket differs in technique in that both sides are plaited in continuity, and the turned-in edges of the first side with the subsequent interlacing of the second side noted in Tongareva are absent. This type of basket was not made in Samoa or in the Cook Islands.
The twilled baskets are found in the Cook Islands, Tahiti, and Samoa. The smaller taunga baskets resemble the si'u ola baskets of Samoa (29, pl. 14, c) but have the concealed two-tail finish of the two-course braid at the bottom, whereas the Samoan basket has the distinct two-tail finish. The Tongarevan tupono is similar to the Samoan ola tu (29, pl. 14, B) except that it is not so deep. Both are used to catch fish. Both the Tongarevan and Samoan baskets represent a coarse stage of twilled plaiting, whereas those of the Cook Islands (28, fig. 163) and Tahiti (10, pl. 6, A) show an improvement in technique in which the wefts of the two-course braid bottom are dropped out and cut off to make a neater braid.
The open leaflet baskets with the full leaflet split, after the completion of the basket to form the rim, are common in Tahiti as the haakee pahai (10, pl. 3, B) and in the Cook Islands as the tapora (28, fig. 154). These baskets are absent in Tongareva and Samoa.
The lauhala (rauhara; Pandanus leaf) mats are simple and show little of the advanced decorative work of the Cook Islands, in which the twilled borders with overlaid plaiting in color have reached a high development. Decoration is confined to running a couple of weft lines of the thin anterior surface of hala leaf, dyed red, in overlaid plaiting to form a double row of red checks at wide intervals over the body of the mat. Two strips of lauhala to form double wefts are used. Plaiting is confined to mats for domestic use and did not develop into a widely used craft as in Manihiki and Rakahanga, where plaited mats, satchels, fans, and hats are beautifully made for local use and for presents. The Tongarevans, in recent times, have used pipi pearls as gifts and have not the extra need for plaited articles which stimulated the craft of plaiting in Manihiki and Rakahanga.