28 April 2010

Lei Niho Palaoa

Name: Lei Niho Palaoa
Origin: HawaiiPolynesia
Date: 200 BC - AD 800
Museum: Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii (US) Material: Ivory (spermwhale), hair, textile, plant (olona) 
Dimensions: 26 x 14.2 cm Comments:
Hawaiian society under the ‘Aikapu system was stratified according to rank. An individual’s rank was not determined by wealth or gender, but by genealogy. Those of the highest rank could trace their genealogy all the way back to the beginning of time, to the very first organism to inhabit the earth, even to the primordial darkness preceding all life. These genealogies were recorded in chants called
ko‘ihonua that glorified Ali‘i bloodlines, ancestors, and their decedents.
Ali‘i, like other strata of Hawaiian society, were not all of similar rank. The highest Ali‘i were the Mō‘ī, or supreme rulers. They were often nī‘aupi‘o chiefs, having being conceived through the union of high ranking siblings. These nī‘aupi‘o chiefs were considered to be Akua (Gods) on earth, and as such, they had to keep strict kapu, or taboos, least the welfare of their people and lands be compromised. Also, because ruling was a kuleana (responsibility, right), many chiefs would go to great lengths to ensure their kapu were kept. For example, for those whose kapu forbade their shadow falling on another human, they would often leave their kauhale (housing complex) only after the sun had gone down so that their shadow could not be cast. Ruling in Hawai‘i was not just about luxury, as the Mō‘ī had an inter-dependent relationship with the maka‘āinana (common people). The commoners provided the resources that the Mō‘ī would use to mālama their people and the Gods.
There might be one Ali‘i Nui ruling over an entire island, or several each with their own moku (large land division within an island). Lesser Ali‘i, known as kaukau ali‘i might rule over an ahupua‘a, smaller land division, or an ‘ili, an even smaller land division within an ahupua‘a. Unlike the Ali‘i Nui, the Kaukau Ali‘i often did not have strict kapu. In fact, many Kaukau Ali‘i were not of much higher rank than the konohiki, or resource managers, who dealt directly with the maka‘āinana.
One important symbol of rank for the highest Ali‘i was the lei niho palaoa, a whale tooth pendant. The carved hook pendant is strung on thousands of finely braided strands of human hair. These significant lei were worn by Ali‘i of both genders. These whale teeth were collected from carcass that would wash ashore at specific places in the islands. These wahi pana (sacred places) were considered important areas to control in order to have access to the mana that these items brought. Control over these spots, like Kualoa on O‘ahu, might mean control over the entire island.

The strands of hair of this particular necklace are braided in varying thicknesses. A knot of olona (Touchardia latifolia) used to bind the strands of hair together with the pendent can be seen at this junction. The olona tying cords are wrapped with black ribbon. Through Queen Emma's will, this and many other cultural objects, were passed to Princess Pauahi, with the provision that it go to a museum in Hawaii's future.

© Text and image: www.bishopmuseum.org and www.hawaiialive.org

26 April 2010

Hawaiian beef stew with poi

What's poi?
Poi is made from the popular hawaiian taro plant (Colocasia esculenta), the 14th most cultivated crop on earth. Taro is cultivated both in the dry uplands and in marshy land irrigated by streams. The planters of wetland taro built walls of earth reinforced with stone to enclose the taro patch, or lo`i.
Although taro is eaten around the world, only Hawaiians make poi. Traditionally they cooked the starchy, potato-like taro root, or corm, for hours in an underground oven called an imu. Then they pounded the taro corms on large flat boards called Papa ku`i`ai, using heavy stone poi pounders called pohaku ku`i `ai. The taro was pounded into a smooth, sticky paste called pa`i`ai, then stored air tight in ti leaf bundles and banana sheaths for storage or future trading. By slowly adding water to the pa`i`ai, which was then mixed and kneaded, the perfect poi consistency was created. Poi was traditionally enjoyed with fresh fish, seaweed, breadfruit and sweet potato, an incredibly tasty and nutritious meal. It was eaten with fingers. Some times it was left to ferment a bit, giving it a unique, slightly sour taste.
The bowl of poi was considered so important and sacred a part of daily Hawaiian life that whenever a bowl of poi was uncovered at the family dinner table, it was believed that the spirit of Haloa, the ancestor of the Hawaiian people, was present. Because of that, all conflict among family members had to come to an immediate halt.

The recipe: Hawaiian beef stew thickened with poi 
(by http://www.poico.com/)
Hawaiian beef stew thickened with poi is a classic local dish: a basic beef stew thickened with poi instead of the usual flour-water mixture.
•2 to 3 pounds of stew beer
•Vegetable oil, or bacon drippings
•Raw vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, other root vegetables)
•1 to 2 cups Tomatoes, peeled and seeded
•2 teaspoons Hawaiian salt (or kosher salt)
•1 cup poi
Dredge 2-3 pounds of stew beef lightly in a blend of flour, salt and pepper. Brown in vegetable oil or bacon drippings in deep, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Cover with water, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for an hour. Add 2-3 cups of raw vegetables: chunks of carrot, onion, potato and other root vegetable (chunks of peeled, boiled taro are good, too). Add 1-2 cups of peeled, seeded tomatoes (may be frozen or canned) and 2 teaspoons Hawaiian salt (or kosher salt). More water may be added, if necessary. Simmer one hour. Just before serving, add 1 cup poi to thicken stew: stir and add more poi if needed. up to 2 cups. Serve hot over steamed Japanese-style rice. Pass Hawaiian chili pepper water (tiny red-hot chilies steeped in boiling water, then bottled) and trimmed green onions for those who like a little fire.

24 April 2010

Kon-Tiki expedition

© Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo
One of the most known and renowned expeditions, the Kon-Tiki sailing from Peru to Polynesia marked a huge step on the experimental archaeology field. Its originator and leader, Thor Heyerdahl, wanted to prove the possibility of a pre-Columbian interchange between South America and Polynesia. He achieved the goal by constructing a sailing raft made of nine balsa tree trunks, an available wood in the forests of Peru. A mangrove wood mast supported a main sail of 15 by 18 feet on a yard of bamboo stems.
A plaited bamboo cabin provided refuge for the six crewmen that sailed the boat through the Pacific Ocean: Thor Heyerdahl as Expedition leader, Erik Hesselberg as navigator, Bengt Danielsson as steward in charge of supplies, Knut Haugland as radio expert, Torstein Raaby in charge of radio transmissions and Herman Watzinger as meteorological and hydrographical data collector.
The Kon-Tiki carried 250 litres of water in bamboo tubes. For food they took 200 coconuts, sweet potatoes, bottle gourds and other assorted fruit and roots. The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps provided field rations, tinned food and survival equipment. In return, the Kon-Tiki explorers reported on the quality and utility of the provisions. They also caught plentiful numbers of fish, particularly flying fish, "dolphin fish", yellowfin tuna, bonito and shark.
Heyerdahl believed that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. His aim in mounting the Kon-Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. (Although the expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives, Heyerdahl argued they were incidental to the purpose of proving that the raft itself could make the journey.)
The Kon-Tiki expedition was funded by private loans, along with donations of equipment from the United States Army. Heyerdahl and a small team went to Peru, where, with the help of dockyard facilities provided by the Peruvian authorities, they constructed the raft out of balsa logs and other native materials in an indigenous style as recorded in illustrations by Spanish conquistadores. The trip began on April 28, 1947, at Callao, Peru, and after 101 days and over 6.980 km across the Pacific Ocean, they arrived at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7. They had mainly followed the Humboldt Current. The crew's first sight of land was the atoll of Puka-Puka on July 30. They made brief contact with the inhabitants of Angatau Island on August 4, but were unable to land safely. Incidentally, the Angatau atoll was reached after 97 days of travel, the calculated absolute minimum navigational time to reach Polynesia. Three days later, on August 7, the raft struck a reef and was eventually beached on an uninhabited islet off Raroia Island in the Tuamotu group. The team had travelled a distance of around 3,770 nautical miles at an average speed of 1.5 knots. After spending a number of days alone on the tiny islet, the crew were greeted by men from a village on a nearby island who arrived in canoes, having seen washed-up flotsam from the raft. The crew were taken back to the native village, where they were feted with traditional dances and other festivities. Finally the crew were taken off Raroia to Tahiti by the French schooner Tamara, with the salvaged Kon-Tiki in tow.
Thor Heyerdahl's book about his experience became a bestseller. It was published in 1950 as The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas, later reprinted as Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft.
A documentary motion picture about the expedition, also called Kon-Tiki was produced from a write-up and expansion of the crew's filmstrip notes and won an Academy Award in 1951. This documentary can be viewed in Youtube in its whole length and it’s much worth the 58 minutes it lasts:

The original Kon-Tiki boat is now on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo.

22 April 2010

The DOGON of Mali and Burkina Fasso

Name: Dogon
Living Area: Mali and Burkina Fasso (Africa)
Population: 400.000 - 800.000
Language: Dogon (related to Mandé and Gur languages)
First european contact: Krause (1860s)
Comments: The Dogon people live in the region of the semi-arid Bandiagara plateau and sandstone cliffs, and in the Seno-Gondo plain. As soon as the 15th century, the Dogon already inhabited the Bandiagara cliffs region, although they had previously replaced an older population known as the Tellem (which lived there from the 11th century, and whose textile remains, such as burial blankets and clothing, are considered the oldest organic materials from archaeological contexts preserved in sub-Saharan Africa). Even an older population, named the Tolloy, is said to have previously lived in the area.
The Dogon live in rectangular mudbrick or stone/mud-covered buildings in small villages near the cultivated parcels and water supplies. They cultivate and recollect mainly millet, which they store in big grain stores. Onions, peppers, carrots, lettuce and cabbage are grown for sale at local markets. Domestic animals include goats, donkeys, some cattle, and chickens. Wild fruits and plants complement the diet and serve as traditional medicine. Hunting is not of economic importance, but brings prestige.
Several crafts are practiced by the Dogon. Weaving is typically a male craft. While women spin the cotton, it is the men who are responsible for weaving long bands of cloth. Pottery making is mainly a female craft. The blacksmiths make and repair agricultural tools, jewellery and other metal products. Also, they are responsible for woodwork, such as producing masks and statues. Leatherworkers fabricate bags, sheaths for knifes, saddles, and shoes among other items. In recent years blacksmiths as well as leatherworkers, have become more and more involved in the production and trade of souvenirs. The souvenir-trade has become an important source of income and employment in Mali. Many young Dogon earn their living as guides. In the villages, facilities for tourists have been created, providing a significant source of income for some.
Though much influenced by Islam, there are some christian villages and some other remain still practising their ancestral animist religion that worships creator god Amma.
Historically studied by french anthropologists, the great affluence of these among the dogon resulted in a well-known joke: "Do you know how many people live in a Dogon house? Five: the parents, two children and the french anthropologist".
Both men and women get circumcised during their childhood. Dogon myth explains the necessity to remove the female element (the prepuce) from a boy’s body to enable him to become a man. Similarly, the removal of the clitoris, thought to be the male element in girls, is considered necessary for them to become women. The excision of girls takes place within the villages, in contrast to circumcision ceremonies, that take place outside the village boundaries. Although circumcision is justified by Dogon myth and therefore appears long established, it is possible that this ritual has been adopted only in the more recent past under the influence of Islam and merged with local initiation rites.
Well-known by: their mask dances at the occasion o funerary festivals (such as the nyou yama, dama, or the Sigui). The Sigui is the most important ceremony of the Dogon. It takes place every 60 years and can take several years. The last one started in 1967 and ended in 1973, the next one will start in 2027. The Sigui ceremony symbolises the death of the first ancestor till the moment that humanity acquired the use of the spoken word. The Sigui is a long procession that starts and ends in the village of Youga Dogorou and goes from one village to the other during several months or years. All men wear masks and dance in long processions. The Sigui has a secret language, Sigui So, that women are not allowed to learn. Some men, called the Olubaru, form the secret society of Sigui that plays a central role in the ceremony. They prepare the ceremonies a long time in advance, and they live for three months hidden outside of the villages while nobody is allowed to see them. The villagers are afraid of them and fear is cultivated by a prohibition to go out at night, when sounds warn that the Olubaru are out. The most important mask that plays a major role in the Sigui rituals is the Great Mask or the Mother of Masks. It is several meters long and is just held up by hand and not used to hide a face. This mask is newly created every 60 years.
Some words in their language:
hello: seuw
my name is ... : boy ma ...
yes: ha
no: ay
au revoir: konè
Learn more about them at: Dogon article in Wikipedia

20 April 2010

Early Man and the Ocean

Conference: Early Man and the Ocean
Date: 23 to 26 September 2010
Place: The Kon-Tiki Museum and The Norwegian Maritime Museum (Oslo, Norway)
Price: Free for conferences (just notice on e-mail). For the film festival, the standard museum admittances apply.
Website: www.kon-tiki.no
Contact name: Reidar Solsvik (Reidar.Solsvik@kon-tiki.no)

Early Man and the Ocean 2010: Social Significance of Ocean Voyages is a combined conference and film festival.
The conference topic is maritime experimental archaeology and maritime history dedicated to how (pre)historical or experimental voyages influenced the society they were a part of or the society with which they came in contact.
The conference consists of three sessions on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 of September:
1) Significance of the maritime experiment – social and technological
2) Significance of Ocean Voyages 1 – Oceans Connect
3) Significance of Ocean Voyages 2 – The Sea as a Social Space.
Key note speaker: Professor Ben Finney, University of Hawai'i, "The significance of experimental voyages as a source of scientific knowledge."
The film festival 23-26 of September will screen over 20 films related to maritime experimental archaeology and first European contact with peoples in polar regions:
-BUILDING PHARAOH'S SHIP - Can the legendary trading vessel of an Egyptian queen sail again? WGBH/Nova
-THE SEA STALLION'S VOYAGE - A trial voyage in film and music. Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde
-CILICIA - K. Balayan
-VIRACOCHA I & II - Eyes Open Production
-THE ABORA SAGA - D. Görlitz
-KABANG 2010 - Sea nomads from the Mergui archipelago sail the southwest coast of Norway. Ten Thousand Images
-THE LOG BOAT FROM GLOMMA RIVER - Norwegian Maritime Museum