Single, or Island Canoe
Single, or Island Canoe
This kind of canoe (see next page,) is principally employed in the voyages which the natives make to Tetuaroa, a cluster of islands, five in number, to the north of Tahiti.
In navigating their double canoes, the natives frequently use two sails, but in their single vessels only one. The masts are moveable, and are only raised when the sails are used. They are slightly fixed upon a step placed across the canoe, and fastened by strong ropes or braces extending to both sides, and to the stem and stern. The sails were made with the leaves of the pandanus split into thin strips, neatly woven into a kind of matting. page 162 The shape of the sails of the island-canoes is singular, the side attached to the mast is straight, the outer part resembling the section of an oval, cut in the longest direction. The other sails are commonly used in the same manner as sprit or lugger sails are used in European boats. The ropes from the corners of the sails are not usually fastened, but held in the hands of the natives. The rigging is neither varied nor complex; the cordage is made with the twisted bark of the hibiscus, or the fibres of the cocoanut husk—of which a very good coiar rope is manufactured.
The paddles of the Tahitians are plain, having a smooth round handle, and an oblong-shaped blade. Their canoes having no rudder, are steered by a man in the stern, with a paddle generally longer than the rest. In long voyages, page 163 they have two or three steering paddles, including a very large one, which they employ in stormy weather, to prevent the vessel from drifting to leeward. Temariotuu, the god of mariners and pilots, was stated to have made his rudder, or steering-paddle, from the sacred aito of Ruaroroirai. The tataa, or scoop, with which they bale out the leakage, is generally a neat and convenient article, cut out of a solid piece of wood. Their canoes were formerly ornamented with streamers of various coloured cloths; and tufts of fringe and tassels of feathers were attached to the masts and sails, though they are now seldom used. A small kind of house or awning was erected in the centre, or attached to the stern, to skreen the passengers from the sun by day and the damp by night. The latter is still used, though the former is but seldom seen. They do not appear ever to have ornamented the body or hull of their vessels with carving or painting; but, notwithstanding this seeming deficiency, they had by no means an unfinished appearance.
In building their vessels, all the parts were first accurately fitted to each other, the whole was taken to pieces, and the outside of each plank smoothed by rubbing it with a piece of coral and sand moistened with water; it was then dried, and polished with fine dry coral. The wood was generally of a rich yellow colour, the cinet nearly the same, and a new well-built canoe is perhaps one of the best specimens of native skill, ingenuity, and perseverance, to be seen in the islands. Most of the natives can hollow out a buhoe, but it is only those who have been regularly trained to the work, that can build a large canoe, and in this there is a considerable division of labour,—some page 164 laying down the keel and building the hull, some making and fixing the sails, and others fastening the outriggers, or adding the ornaments. The principal chiefs usually kept canoe-builders attached to their establishments, but the inferior chiefs generally hire workmen, paying them a given number of pigs, or fathoms of cloth, for a canoe, and finding them in provision while they are employed. The trees that are cut down in the mountains, or the interior of the islands, are often hollowed out there, sometimes by burning, but generally by the adze, or cut into the shape designed, and then brought down to the shore.
Idolatry was interwoven with their naval architecture, as well as every other pursuit. The priest had certain ceremonies to perform, and numerous and costly offerings were made to the gods of the chief, and of the craft or profession, when the keel was laid, when the canoe was finished, and when it was launched. Valuable canoes were often among the national offerings presented to the gods, and afterwards sacred to the service of the idol.
The double canoes of the Society Islands were larger, and more imposing in appearance, than most of those used in New Zealand or the Sandwich Islands, but not so strong as the former, nor so neat and light as the latter. I have, however, made several voyages in them. In fine weather, and with a fair wind, they are tolerably safe and comfortable; but when the weather is rough, and the wind contrary, they are miserable sea-boats, and are tossed about completely at the mercy of the winds. Many of the natives that have set out on voyages from one island to another, have been carried from the page 165 group altogether, and have either perished at sea, or drifted to some distant island.
In long voyages, single canoes are considered safer than double ones, as the latter are sometimes broken asunder, and are then unmanageable; but, even though the former should fill or upset at sea, as the wood is specifically lighter than the water, there is no fear of their sinking. When a canoe is upset or fills, the natives on board jump into the sea, and all taking hold of one end, which they press down, so as to elevate the other end above the sea, a great part of the water runs out; they then suddenly loose their hold of the canoe, which falls upon the water, emptied in some degree of its contents. Swimming along by the side of it, they bale out the rest, and climbing into it pursue their voyage. This has frequently been the case; and, unless the canoe is broken by upsetting or filling, the detention is all the inconvenience it occasions. The only evil they fear in such circumstances, is that of being attacked by sharks, which have sometimes made sad havock among those who have been wrecked at sea.
An instance of this kind occurred a few years ago, when a number of chiefs and people, altogether thirty-two, were passing from one island to another, in a large double canoe. They were overtaken by a tempest, the violence of which tore their canoes from the horizontal spars by which they were united. It was in vain for them to endeavour to place them upright, or empty out the water, for they could not prevent their incessant overturning. As their only resource, they collected the scattered spars and boards, and constructed a raft, on which they hoped they might drift to land. The weight of the whole number, page 166 who were now collected on the raft, was so great as to sink it so far below the surface, that they sometimes stood above their knees in water. They made very little progress, and soon became exhausted by fatigue and hunger. In this condition they were attacked by a number of sharks. Destitute of a knife, or any other weapon of defence, they fell an easy prey to these rapacious monsters. One after another was seized and devoured, or carried away by them; and the survivors, who with dreadful anguish beheld their companions thus destroyed, saw the number of assailants apparently increasing, as each body was carried away, until only two or three remained. The raft, thus lightened of its load, rose to the surface of the water, and placed them beyond the reach of the voracious jaws of their relentless destroyers. The voyage on which they had set out, was only from one of the Society Islands to another, consequently they were not very far from land. The tide and the current now carried them to the shore, where they landed, to tell the melancholy fate of their fellow-voyagers.
But for the sharks, the South Sea Islanders would be in comparatively little danger from casualties in their voyages among the islands; and although when armed they have sometimes been known to attack a shark in the water, yet when destitute of a knife or other weapon, they become an easy prey, and are consequently much terrified at such merciless antagonists.
Another circumstance also, that added to this dread of sharks was, the superstitious ideas they entertained relative to some of the species. Although they would not only kill, but eat certain kinds of shark: the large blue sharks, squalus page 167 glaucus, were deified by them, and, rather than attempt to destroy them, they would endeavour to propitiate their favour by prayers and offerings. Temples were erected, in which priests officiated, and offerings were presented to the deified monsters, while fishermen and others, who were much at sea, sought their favour. In one of their fabulous legends, for which I am indebted to my friend Mr. Orsmond, the island of Tahiti is represented as having been a shark, originally from Raiatea: Matarafau, in the east, was the head; and a place near Faaa, on the west, was the tail; the large lake Vaihiria was the ventricles or gills; while the lofty Orohena, the highest mountain in the island, probably 6- or 7000 feet above the sea, was regarded as its dorsal fin; and its ventral fin was Matavai. Many ludicrous legends were formerly in circulation among the people, relative to the regard paid by the sharks at sea, to priests of their temples, whom they were always said to recognize, and never to injure. I received one from the mouth of a man, formerly a priest of an akua mao shark god; but it is too absurd to be recorded. The principal motives, however, by which the people appear to have been influenced m their homage to these creatures, was the same that operated on their minds in reference to other acts of idolatry; it was the principle of fear, and a desire to avoid destruction, in the event of being exposed to their anger at sea.
The superstitious fears of the people have now entirely ceased. I was once in a boat, on a voyage to Borabora, when a ravenous shark approaching us, seized the blade of one of the oars, and on being shaken from it, darted at the keel of the boat, which he attempted to bite. While he was page 168 thus employed, the native whose oar he had seized, leaning over the side of the boat, grasped him by the tail, succeeded in lifting him out of the water, and, with the help of his companions, dragged him alive into the boat, where he began to flounder and strike his tail with rage and violence. Mr. Tyerman and myself, for we were sailing together, were climbing up on the seats out of his way, but the natives, giving him two or three blows on the nose with a small wooden mallet, quieted him, and then cut off his head. We landed the same evening, when I believe they baked and ate him.
The single canoes, though safer at sea, are yet liable to accident, notwithstanding the outrigger, which requires to be fixed with care, to prevent them from upsetting. To the natives this is a matter of slight inconvenience, but to a foreigner it is not always pleasant or safe. Mrs. Orsmond, Mrs. Barff, Mrs. Ellis, and myself, with our two children, and one or two natives, were once crossing the small harbour at Fa-re, in Huahine; a female servant was sitting in the fore part of the canoe, with our little girl in her arms, our infant boy was at his mother's breast, and a native, with a long light pole, was paddling or pushing the canoe along, when a small buhoe, with a native youth sitting in it, darted out from behind a bush that hung over the water, and before we could turn, or the youth could stop his canoe, it ran across our outrigger. This in an instant went down, our canoe was turned bottom upwards, and the whole party precipitated into the sea. The sun had set soon after we started from the opposite side, and, the twilight being very short, the shades of evening had already thickened around us, which prevented the natives on the shore from perceiving our situation. page 169 The native woman held our little girl up with one hand, and swam with the other towards the shore, aiding, as well as she could, Mrs. Orsmond, who had caught hold of her long hair, which floated on the water behind her; Mrs. Barff, on rising to the surface, caught hold of the outrigger of the canoe that had occasioned our disaster, and, calling out for help, informed the people on the shore of our danger, and speedily brought them to our assistance.
Mr. Orsmond no sooner reached the beach, than he plunged into the sea; Mrs. O. leaving the native by whom she had been supported, caught hold of her husband, and not only prevented his swimming, but sunk him so deep in the water, that, but for the timely arrival of the natives, both would probably have found a watery grave. Mahine-vahine, the queen, sprang in, and conveyed Mrs. Barff to the shore. I came up on the side opposite to that on which the canoe had turned over, and found Mrs. Ellis struggling in the water, with the child still at her breast. I immediately climbed upon the canoe, and raised her so far out of the water, as to allow the little boy to breathe, till a small canoe came off to our assistance, into which she was taken, when I swam to the shore, grateful for the deliverance we had experienced.
It was not far from the beach where this occurred, yet the water was deep, and several articles which we had in the canoe, were seen the next day lying at the bottom, among coral and sand, seventeen or eighteen fathoms below the surface. Accidents of this kind, however, occur but seldom; and though we have made many voyages, this is the only occasion on which we have been in danger.
The natives of the eastern isles frequently come page 170 down to the Society Islands in large double canoes, which the Tahitians dignify with the name of pahi, the term for a ship. They are built with much smaller pieces of wood than those employed in the structure of the Tahitian canoes, as the low coralline islands produce but very small kinds of timber, yet they are much superior both for strength, convenience, and sustaining a tempest at sea. They are always double, and one canoe has a permanent covered residence for the crew. The two masts are also stationary, and a kind of ladder, or wooden shroud, extends from the sides to the head of the mast. The sails are large, and made with fine matting. Several of the principal chiefs possess a pahi paumotu, which they use as a more safe and convenient mode of conveyance than their own canoes. One canoe, that brought over a chief from Rurutu, upwards of three hundred miles, was very large. It was somewhat in the shape of a crescent, the stem and stern high and pointed, and the sides broad; the depth from the upper edge of the middle to the keel, was not less than twelve feet. It was built with thick planks of the Barringtonia, some of which were four feet wide; they were sewn together with twisted or braided cocoa-nut husk, and although they brought the chief safely, probably more than six hundred miles, they must have been very ungovernable and unsafe in a storm or heavy sea.
The paumotu canoes, in their size, shape, and thatched cabins, resemble those used by the inhabitants of some of the islands to the west, and of the Caroline islanders, more than those of New Zealand, Tahiti, or the Sandwich Islands.
The building of their dwellings is another important occupation of the islanders. Fa-re is the page 171 term for house in most of the islands. The first abodes we occupied were native buildings, and an account of the erection of those prepared for us at Afareaitu, will convey a general idea of their plan and architecture. The timber being prepared, they planted the square posts which support the ridgepole about three feet deep. The piece forming the ridge was nearly triangular, flat underneath, but raised along the centre on the upper side, and about nine inches wide; the joints were accurately fitted, and square mortises were made, to receive tenons formed on the top of the posts. As soon as these were firmly secured, it was raised by ropes, and fixed in its place. The side-posts were next planted, about three or four feet apart; these were square, and nearly nine inches wide. In the top of each post, a groove, about six inches deep and an inch and a half wide, was cut; in this was fixed a strong board, eight or nine inches broad, bevelled on the upper edge, forming a kind of wall-plate along the side of the house. The rafters, which they call aho, were put on next; they are usually straight branches of the purau, an exceedingly useful tree, growing luxuriantly in every part of the islands. The poles used for rafters are about four inches in diameter at the largest end. As soon as they are cut, the bark is stripped off, and used in the manufacture of cordage, lines, &c. The rafters are then deposited in a stream of water for a number of days, in order to extract the juices with which they are impregnated, and which, the natives suppose, attract insects, that soon destroy them. When taken out, the poles are dried, and considered fit for use. The wood is remarkably light, its growth is rapid, and though the old parts of the tree are exceedingly tough, the young page 172 branches or poles, used for rafters and other purposes, are soft and brittle, resembling the texture and strength of branches of the English willow. The foot of the rafter is partially sharpened, and about eighteen inches from the end a deep notch is cut, which receives the bevelled edge of the ra-pe, or wall-plate, while the upper extremity rests upon the ridge. The rafters are generally ranged along on one side, three feet apart, with parallel rafters on the opposite side, which cross each other at the top of the ridge, where they are firmly tied together with cord, or the strong fibres of the ieie, a tough mountain plant. A pole is then fixed along, above the junction of the opposite rafters, and the whole tied down to pegs fastened in the piece of timber forming the ridge. The large wood used in building is of a fine yellow colour, the rafters are beautifully white; and as the house is often left some days in frame, its appearance is at once novel and agreeable.
The buildings are thatched with rau fara, (the leaves of the pandanus,) which are prepared with great care. When first gathered from the trees, they are soaked three or four days in the sea, or a stream of water. The sound leaves are then selected, and each leaf, after having been stretched singly on a stick fixed in the ground, is coiled up with the concave side outwards. In this state they remain till they are perfectly flat, when each leaf is doubled about one-third of the way from the stalk, over a strong reed or cane six feet long, and the folded leaf laced together with the stiff stalks of the cocoa-nut leaflets. The thatch, thus prepared, is taken to the building, and a number of lines of cinet are extended above the rafters, and in each of the spaces between, from the lower edge page 173 to the ridge. The thatchers now take a reed of leaves, and fasten it to the lower ends of the rafters at the left extremity of the roof, and, placing another reed about an inch above it, pierce the leaves with a long wooden needle, and sew it to the lines fixed on the outer side of the rafters, and in the space between them: when six or eight reeds are thus fixed, they pass the cord with which they are sewn two or three times round each of the three rafters over which the reed extends. Placing every successive reed about an inch above the last, they proceed until they reach the ridge. The workmen now descend, and carry up another course of thatch, in the same way inserting the ends of the reeds of the fresh course into the bent part of the leaves on the former. It is singular to see a number of men working underneath the rafters, in thatching a house.
When the roof is finished, the points only of the long palm-leaves are seen hanging on the outside; and the appearance within, from the shining brown colour of the leaves bent over the reeds, and the whiteness of the rafters, is exceedingly neat and ingenious. The inside of the rafters of the chiefs' houses, or public buildings, is frequently ornamented with braided cords of various colours, or finely-fringed white and chequered matting. These are bound or wrapped round the rafters, and the extremities sometimes hanging down twelve or thirteen inches, give to their roof or ceiling a light and elegant appearance. Most of the natives are able to thatch a house, but covering in the ridge is more difficult, and is only understood by those who have been regularly trained for the work. A quantity of large cocoa-nut or fern leaves is first laid on the upper part of the thatch, and afterwards a page 174 species of long grass, called aretu, is curiously fixed or woven from one end to the other, so as to remain attached to the thatch, and yet cover the ridge of the house.
The roof being finished, they generally level the ground within, and enclose the sides. In the erection of my house, this part was allotted to the king's servants. About thirty of them came one morning with a number of bundles of large white purau poles, from two to three inches in diameter. After levelling the floor, they dug a trench a foot deep round the outside, and then, cutting the poles to a proper length, planted them an inch and a half or two inches apart, until the building was completely enclosed, excepting the space left for a door in the front and opposite sides. In order to keep the poles in their proper place, two or three light sticks, called tea, were tied horizontally along the outside. Partitions were then erected in the same manner, as we were desirous, contrary to the native practice, to have more than one room. The house was now finished, and in structure resembled a large birdcage. In two of the rooms we laid down boards which we had brought from Port Jackson, and either paved the remainder of the floor with stones, or plastered it with lime. The outside was skreened with platted cocoa-nut eaves, lined with native cloth. This also constituted our curtains, and, hung up before the entrance to some of the apartments, answered the purpose of a door. Thus fitted up, our native house proved a comfortable dwelling during the months we remained at Afareaitu.
The houses of the natives, although varying in size and shape, were all built with the same kind of materials, and in a similar manner. Some of page 175 them were exceedingly large, capable of containing two or three thousand people. Nanu, a house belonging to the king, on the borders of Pare, was three hundred and ninety-seven feet in length. Others were a hundred or a hundred and forty feet long. These, however, were erected only for the leading chiefs. As the population has decreased, a diminution has also taken place in the size of the dwellings, yet, for some time after our arrival, several remained an hundred feet in length. The chiefs seem always to have been attended by a numerous retinue of dependants, or Areois, and other idlers. The unemployed inhabitants of the districts where they might be staying, were also accustomed to attend the entertainments given for the amusement of the chiefs, and this probably induced the people to erect capacious buildings for their accommodation.
Some of the houses were straight at each end, and resembled in shape an English dwelling; this was called haupape: but the most common form for the chiefs' houses was what they called poté, which was parallel along the sides, and circular at the ends. Houses of this kind have a very neat, light, and yet compact appearance. The above are the usual forms of their permanent habitations and the durability of the house depends much upon the manner in which it is thatched; if there is much space between the reeds, it soon decays; but if they are placed close together, it will last five or seven years without admitting the rain. Occasionally two or three coverings of thatch are put on the same frame. The Tahitians are a social people, naturally fond of conversation, song, and dance; hence a number often resided under the same roof.page 176
In addition to the oval and the oblong house, they often had the fare pora, the fare rau, and the buhapa, or other temporary dwellings, for encampments during the period of war, or when journeying among the mountains; and their farau vaa, or canoe houses, which were large, and built with care; a number of what they call oa were planted at unequal distances on both sides of the rafter and post, which being one piece of timber, tended to strengthen the building.
The floor of their dwellings was covered with long dried grass, which, although comfortable when first laid down, was not often changed, and, from the moisture occasioned by the water spilled at meals and other times, was frequently much worse than the naked sand or soil would have been. Their door was an ingenious contrivance, being usually a light trellis-frame of bamboo - cane, suspended by a number of braided thongs, and attached to a long cane in the upper part of the inside of the wall-plate—the thongs sliding backwards and forwards like the rings of a curtain, whenever it was opened or closed. Many of their houses are erected within their enclosures or plantations, but they generally stand on the shore, or by the wayside.
Every chief of rank, or person of what in Tahiti would be termed respectability, has an enclosure round his dwelling, leaving a space of ten or twenty feet width withinside. This court is often kept clean, sometimes spread over with dry grass, but generally covered with black basaltic pebbles, or anaana, beautifully white fragments of coral. The aumoa is a neat and durable fence, about four feet high; the upright pieces are tenoned into a polished rail along the top, or surrounded with the page 177 straight and peeled branches of the purau or tamanu.
Erected with such tools as are exhibited below, the size, structure, and conveniency of the Tahitian houses, such as Wallis found, and such as are here described, display no small degree of page 178 invention, skill, and attention to comfort, and show that the natives were even then far removed from a state of barbarism. They also warranted the inference that they were not deficient in capacity for improvement, and that, with better models and tuition, they would improve in the cultivation of every art of civilized life, especially when they should be put in possession of iron and iron tools, as those they had heretofore used were rude stone adzes, or chisels of bone.
It is, however, proper to remark, that although all were capable of building good native houses, and many erected comfortable dwellings, yet great numbers, from indolence or want of tools, reared only temporary and wretched huts, as unsightly in the midst of the beautiful landscape, as they were unwholesome and comfortless to their abject inhabitants.
The dress of the islanders was various as to its form, colour, and texture. It was neither cumbrous nor costly, but always light and loose; and though singular, often elegant. Wool, cotton, and silk were formerly unknown among them. The prince and the peasant, the warrior and the voluptuary, were clad in vestments of the same materials. The head was uncovered, excepting when adorned with flowers, and the brow was occasionally shaded by a light skreen of cocoa-nut leaves. The dress of the sexes differed but little; both wore the pareu, or folds of cloth, round the waist. The men, however, wore the maro or girdle, and the tiputa or poncho, while the females wore over their shoulders the light ahupu or ahutiapono, in the form of a vest, or loose scarf or shawl.
Next to those kinds of labour necessary to page 179 obtain their subsistence, and construct their dwellings, their apparel claimed attention. This, though light, required, from the simple methods by which it was fabricated, a considerable portion of their time. Cloth made with the bark of a tree, constituted a principal article of native dress, prior to the introduction of foreign cloth. It is manufactured chiefly by females, and was one of their most frequent employments. The name for cloth, among the Tahitians, is ahu. The Sandwich Island word tapa, is, we believe, never used in this sense, but signifies a part of the human body. In the manufacture of their cloth, the natives of the South Sea Islands use a greater variety of materials than their neighbours in the northern group: the bark of the different varieties of wauti, or paper mulberry, being almost the only article used by the latter; while the former employ not only the bark of the paper mulberry, which they call auti, but also that of the aoa and of the bread-fruit.
The process of manufacture is much the same in all, though some kinds are sooner finished than others. When the bark from the branches of the bread-fruit or auti is used, the outer green or brown rind is scraped off with a shell; it is then slightly beaten, and allowed to ferment, or is macerated in water. A stout piece of wood, resembling a beam, twenty or thirty feet long, and from six to nine inches square, with a groove cut in the under side, is placed on the ground; across this, the bark is laid, and beaten with a heavy mallet of casuarina or iron-wood. The mallet is usually fifteen or eighteen inches long, about two inches square, and round at one end, for the purpose of being held firmly. The sides of the malle page 180 are grooved; one side very coarse or large, the opposite side exceedingly fine. One of the remaining sides is generally cut in chequers or small squares, and the other is plain or ribbed. The bark is placed lengthwise across the long piece of wood, and beaten first with the rough side of the mallet, and then with those parts that are finer.
Vegetable gum is rarely employed; in general, the resinous matter in the bark is sufficiently adhesive. The fibres of the bark are completely interwoven by the frequent beating with the grooved or chequered side of the mallet; and when the piece is finished, the texture of the cloth is often fine and even; while the inequalities occasioned by the fine grooves, or small squares, give it the appearance of woven cloth. During the process of its manufacture, the cloth is kept saturated with moisture, and carefully wrapped in thick green leaves every time the workwomen eave off; but as soon as it is finished, they spread it to dry in the sun, and bleach it according to the purpose for which it is designed. The ore or cloth made with the bark of the aoa, is usually nin, and of a dark brown colour; that made with the bark of the bread-fruit and a mixture of the auti, is of a light brown, or fawn colour; but the finest and most valuable kind is called hobu. page 181 It is made principally, and sometimes entirely, from the bark of the paper mulberry, and is bleached till beautifully white. This is chiefly worn by the females.
It is astonishing that they should be able, by a process so simple, to make bales, containing sometimes two hundred yards of cloth, four yards wide; the whole in one single piece, made with strips of bark seldom above four or five feet long, and, when spread open, not more than an inch and a half broad—joined together simply by beating them with the grooved mallet. When sufficiently bleached and dried, the cloth is folded along the whole length, rolled up into a bale, and covered with a piece of matting—this is called ruru vehe. The wealth of a chief is sometimes estimated by the number of these covered bales which he possesses. The more valuable kinds of cloth are rolled up in the same way, covered with matting or cloth of an inferior kind, and generally suspended from some part of the roof of the chief's house. The estimation in which it was held has been greatly diminished since they have become acquainted with European cloth, and large quantities are now seldom made. It is, however, still an article in general use among the lower classes of society, and the mother yet continues to beat her parure, or native pareu, for herself and children.
A number of smaller pieces are still made, among which the tiputa is one of the most valuable. It is prepared by beating a number of layers of cloth together, to render it thicker than the common cloth: for the outside layer, they select a stout branch of the auti, or bread-fruit, about an inch and a half in diameter: this they prepare with great attention, and, having beaten it page 182 to the usual width and length, which is about ten feet long and three feet wide, they fix it on the outside, and attach it to the others by rubbing a small portion of arrow-root on the inner side, before beating it together. The tiputa of the Tahitians corresponds exactly with the poncho of the South Americans. It is rather longer, but is worn in the same manner, having a hole cut in the centre, through which, when worn, the head is passed; while the garment hangs down over the shoulders, breast, and back, usually reaching, both before and behind, as low as the knees. Next to the tiputa, the ahufara is a general article of dress. These are either square like a shawl, or resemble a scarf. They are sometimes larger, and correspond with a counterpane more than a shawl, and are always exceedingly splendid and rich in their colours.
The natives of the Society Islands have a variety of vegetable dyes, and display more taste in the variations and patterns of the cloth, than in any other use of colours. Much of the common cloth is dyed either with the bark of the aito, casuarina, or tiari, aleurites. This gives it a kind of dark red or chocolate colour, and is supposed to add to its durability. The leaves of the arum are sometimes used, but brilliant red and yellow are their favourite hues. The former, which they call mati, is prepared by mixing the milky juice of the small berry of the mati, ficus prolixa, with the leaves of the tou, a species of cordia. When the dye is prepared by this combination, it is absorbed on the fibres of a kind of rush, and dried for use. It produces a most brilliant scarlet dye, which, when preserved with a varnish of gum, retains its brightness till the garment is worn out. The yellow is page 183 prepared from the inner bark of the root of the nono, morindu citrifolia, and though far more fugitive than the scarlet of the mati, is an exceedingly bright colour. The yellow dye is prepared by infusing the bark of the root in water, in which the cloth is allowed to remain till completely saturated, when it is dried in the sun. The mati, or scarlet dye, is moistened with water, and laid on the dry cloth. Their patterns are fixed with the scarlet dye on a yellow ground, and were formerly altogether devoid of uniformity or regularity, yet still exhibiting considerable taste. They now fix a border round the ahufara, and arrange the figures in different parts. Nature supplies the pattern. They select some of the most delicate and beautiful ferns, or the hibiscus flowers: when the dye is prepared, the leaf, or flower, is laid carefully on the dye; as soon as the surface is covered with the colouring matter, the stained leaf or flower, with its leaflets or petals correctly adjusted, is fixed on the cloth, and pressed gradually and regularly down. When it is removed, the impression is often beautiful and clear.
The scarf or shawl, and the tiputa, are the only dresses prepared in this way, and it is difficult to conceive of the dazzling and imposing appearance of such a dress, loosely folded round the person of a handsome chieftain of the South Sea Islands, who perfectly understands how to exhibit it to the best advantage. This kind of cloth is made better by the Tahitians than any other inhabitants of the Pacific. It is not, however, equal to the wairiirii of the Sandwich Islanders. Much of this cloth, beautifully painted, is now employed in their houses for bed and window curtains, &c. Several kinds of strong cloth are finished with a kind of page 184 gum or varnish, for the purpose of rendering them impervious.
But in the fabrication of glazed cloth, the natives of the Austral Islands, especially those of Rurutu, excel all with whom I am acquainted. Some of their pieces of cloth are thirty or forty yards square, exceedingly thick, and glazed on both sides, resembling the upper side of the English oil-cloth table-covers. It must have required immense labour to prepare it, yet it was abundant when they were first discovered. It is usually red on one side, and black on the other, the latter being highly varnished with a vegetable gum.
In the manufacture of cloth, the females of all ranks were employed; and the queen, and wives of the chiefs of the highest rank, strove to excel in some department—in the elegance of the pattern, or the brilliancy of the colour. They are fond of society, and worked in large parties, in open and temporary houses erected for the purpose. Visiting one of these houses at Eimeo, I saw sixteen or twenty females all employed. The queen sat in the midst, surrounded by several chief women, each with a mallet in her hand, beating the bark that was spread before her. The queen worked as diligently and cheerfully as any present.
The spar or square piece of wood on which the bark is beaten, being hollow on the under-side, every stroke produces a loud sound, and the noise occasioned by sixteen or twenty mallets going at one time, was to me almost deafening; while the queen and her friends seemed not only insensible to any inconvenience from it, but quite amused at its apparent effect on us. The sound of the cloth-beating mallet is not disagreeable, where heard at page 185 a distance, in some of the retired valleys, indicating the abode of industry and peace; but in the cloth-houses it is hardly possible to endure it.
As the wives and daughters of the chiefs take a pride in manufacturing superior cloth, the queen would often have felt it derogatory to her rank, if any other females in the island could have finished a piece of cloth better than herself. I remember, in the island of Huahine, when a native once passed by, wearing a beautiful ahufara, hearing one native woman remark to another—What a finely printed shawl that is! The figures on it are like the work, or the marking, of the queen! This desire, among persons in high stations, to excel in departments of labour, is what we have always admired. This feeling probably led Pomare to bestow so much attention on his hand-writing, and induced the king of the Sandwich Islands to request that we would not teach any of the people till we had fully instructed him in reading and writing.
The ahu, or cloth made with the bark of a tree, although exceedingly perishable when compared with European woven cloth, yet furnished, while it lasted, a light and loose dress, adapted to the climate, and the habits of the people. The duration of a Tahitian dress depended upon the materials with which it was made, the aoa being considered the strongest. Only the highly varnished kinds were proof against wet. The beauty of the various kinds of painted cloth was soon marred, and the texture destroyed, by the rain, as they were kept together simply by the adhesion of the interwoven fibres of the bark. Notwithstanding this, a tiputa, or a good strong pareu, when preserved from wet, would last several months. page 186 Though the native cloth worn by the inhabitants was made by the women, there were some kinds used in the temples, in the service of the idols, which were made by men, and which it was necessary, according to the declarations of the priest, should be beaten during the night.
Although the manufacture of cloth was formerly the principal, it was not the only occupation of the females. Many of the people, especially the raateiras, or secondary chiefs, wore a kind of mat made with the bark of the hibiscus, which they call purau; and the preparation of this, as well as the beds or sleeping mats, occupied much of the time of the females. Great attention was paid to the manufacture of these fine mats. They chose for this purpose, the young shoots of the plant, and having peeled off the bark, and immersed it in water, placed it on a board, the outer rind being scraped off with a smooth shell. The strips of bark were an inch or an inch and a half wide, and about four feet long, and when spread out and dry, looked like so many white ribands. The bark was slit into narrow strips frequently less than the eighth of an inch wide. They were woven by the hand, and without any loom or machinery. They commenced the weaving at one corner, and having extended it to the proper width, which was usually three or four feet, continued the work till the mat was about nine or ten feet long, when the projecting ends of the bark were carefully removed, and a fine fringe worked round the edges.—Only half the pieces of bark used in weaving were split into narrow strips throughout their whole length. The others were slit five or six inches at the ends where they commenced, while the remaining part was rolled up like a riband. These they unrolled, and page 187 extended the slits as the weaving advanced, until the whole was complete. When first finished, they are of a beautifully white colour, and are worn only by the men, either bound round the loins as a pareu, or with an aperture in the centre as a tiputa or poncho, and sometimes as a mantle thrown loosely over the shoulder. Their appearance is light and elegant, and they are remarkably durable, though they become yellow from exposure to the weather.
The inhabitants of the Palliser Islands, to the eastward of Tahiti, exceed the Society Islanders in the quality of their mats, which are made of a tough white rush or grass, exceedingly fine and beautiful. They frequently manufacture a sort of girdle, called tiheri, six inches in width, and sometimes twenty yards in length, but remarkably fine and even, being woven by the hand, but with a degree of regularity rivalling the productions of the loom. They are highly valued by the Tahitians, and are a principal article of commerce between the inhabitants of the different islands.
The sails for their canoes, and beds on which they sleep, are a coarser kind of matting made with the leaves of different varieties of palm, or pandanus, found in the islands. Some kinds grow spontaneously others are cultivated for their leaves. The matting sails are much lighter than canvass, but less durable. The size and quality of the sleeping mats is regulated by the skill of the manufacturer, or the rank of the proprietor. Those who excel in making them, use very fine ones themselves. They are all woven by the hand, yet finished with remarkable regularity and neatness.
The ordinary mats are not more than six feet page 188 wide, and nine or twelve feet long, but some are twelve feet wide, and sixty or eighty, or even a hundred yards long. Mats of this size, however, are only made for high chiefs, and in the preparation, perhaps, the females of several districts have been employed. They are kept rolled up, and suspended in some part of the chief's dwelling, more for the purpose of displaying his wealth, and the number of his dependents, than for actual use.
The kinds of leaf least liable to crack, are selected, and, for the purpose of sleeping upon, or even spreading on a floor, the use to which we generally applied them, the mats look neat, and last a considerable time. Several kinds of fine matting, ornamented with bright stained rushes interwoven with the others, were formerly made as articles of dress for the kings, or presents to the gods; but in this department of labour they were always inferior to the Sandwich Islanders, whose variegated mats are superior to any I have seen in the Pacific. Weaving of mats, with beating and staining of cloth, was the chief occupation of the females. A large portion of the property of the people consisted in mats and cloth, which also constituted part of their household furniture.
A variety of other articles were, however, necessary to the furnishing of their houses, but these were manufactured by the men. Next to a sleeping mat, a pillow was considered essential. This was of hard wood, and often exceedingly rude, though sometimes ingeniously wrought, resembling a short low stool, nine inches or a foot in length, and four or five inches high. The upper side was curved, to admit the head; the whole pillow, which they call tuaurua, is cut out of a single piece page 189 Upon the bare wood they reclined their heads at night, and slept as soundly as the inhabitants of more civilized parts would do on the softest down.
In general, they sat cross-legged on mats spread on the floor; but occasionally used a stool, which they called iri or nohoraa. This resembled the pillow in shape, and, though much larger, was made out of a single piece of wood. The tamanu, or callophyllum, was usually selected, and immense trees must have been cut down for this purpose. I have seen iris four or five feet long, three feet wide, and each end three feet six inches high; yet the whole cut out of one solid piece of timber. The upper part was curved, and the extremes being highest, the seat resembled the concave side of a crescent, so that, however large page 190 it might be, only one sat on it at a time. The iri was finely polished, and the wood, in its grain and colour resembling the best kinds of mahogany, rendered it, although destitute of carving or other ornament, a handsome piece of furniture in a chieftain's dwelling. The rank of the host was often indicated by the size of this seat, which was used on public occasions, or for the accommodation of a distinguished guest. Those in more ordinary use were low, and less curved, but always made out of a single piece of wood.
Next to these, their weapons, drums, and other musical instruments, were their most important furniture; a great portion, however, of what might be called their household furniture, was appropriated to the preparation or preservation of their food.
The umete, or dish, was the principal. Sometimes it was exceedingly large, resembling a canoe or boat more than a dish for food. It was frequently made with the wood of the tamanu, exceedingly well polished; some were six or eight feet long, a foot and a half wide, and twelve inches deep, these belonged only to the chiefs, and were used for the preparation of arrow-root, cocoa-nut milk, &c. on occasions of public festivity. The umetes in ordinary use were oval, about two or three feet long, eighteen inches wide, and of varied depth. They are supported by four feet, cut out of the same piece of wood, and serve not only for the preparation of their food, but as dishes, upon which it is placed when taken from the oven.
The papahia is extensively used. It is a low solid block or stool, supported by four short legs, and smoothly polished on the top. It is cut out of one piece of wood, and is used instead of a page 191 mortar for pounding bread-fruit, plantains, or bruishing taro; which is done by placing these upon the papahia, and beating them with a short stone pestle called a penu. This is usually made with a black sort of basalt, found chiefly in the island of Maurua, the most western of the group. The penu is sometimes constructed from a species of porous coral.∗
∗A fine specimen of that kind of penu which I procured at Rurutu, is deposited in the Missionary museum at Austin Friars.
The water used for washing their feet is kept in bottles called aano, made from the shells of large and full-grown cocoa-nuts. That which they drink is contained in calabashes, which are much larger than any I ever saw used for the same purpose in the Sandwich Islands, but destitute of ornament. They are kept in nets of cinet, and suspended from some part of the dwelling. It is customary with them to wash their hands both before and after eating. The dishes used for this purpose were often curiously carved. One I brought from the Austral Islands, of which the page 192 accompanying wood-cut gives a correct representation, is neither inelegant nor rude.
The drinking cups are made with the cocoa-nut shell after it is full grown, but before it is perfectly ripe. The shell is then soft, and is scraped until much thinner than a saucer, and frequently transparent. They are of a yellow colour, and plain, though the cups formerly used for drinking ava were carved. These are the principal utensils in the preparation of their food; they are kept remarkably clean, and, when not in use, suspended from some part of the dwelling, or hung upon a stand.
The fata, or stand, is a single light post planted in the floor, with one or two projections, and a notch on the top, from which the calabashes of water, baskets of food, umetes, &c. are suspended. Great labour was formerly bestowed on this piece of furniture, and the fata pua was considered an ornament to the house in which it was erected. About a foot from the ground, a projection extended six or eight inches wide, completely round, flat on the top, but concave on the under side, in order to prevent rats or mice from ascending and gaining access to the food. Their only knife was a piece of bamboo-cane, with which they would cut up a pig, dog, or fish, with great facility.
The carriage of fruits and roots, from the garden to the dwelling-house, and the constructing of their ovens, in which much of their food is still prepared according to their former custom, is generally performed by the men, while the preparation for the meal within doors is made by the females.