I was looking for various textiles that have been prepared by hand and I was particularly interested in natural dyes and its processes. I found this great article in Victoria and Albert Museum called “The Fabric of India: Nature & Making”.
These are some of the short film clips and a paragraph on the dying process. If you are interested, read the full article on the museum’s website.
India’s natural dyes, especially those for blue and red, have been renowned for millennia. Blue dye was so closely associated with India that the ancient Greeks took its western name – indikos (indigo) – from the country itself. Red dyeing with fixing agents (mordants) was known to the Indus valley civilisation by about 2500 BC.
Fixing the colour is the great challenge of dyeing cloth. Indian dyers’ use of mordants was key to their expertise, which was unrivalled until the invention of western chemical dyes in the 19th century. It is this wealth and mastery of bright and lasting natural dyes that perhaps best distinguishes India’s textile heritage.
Five years ago, when we moved to Bellbowrie, we found this cast iron pot on one of the kerbside collection. I guess you could call it someone’s castaway. (Brisbane City Council does the annual kerbside cleans and collects rubbish or throw aways from residents).
It was a good water container for chickens and ducks. One day, my ceramic bird bath fell off this stump and broke and I gave the birds the pot full of water. Its size and weight made it perfect for a bird bath. I only had to wait 30 minutes before the birds starting flying down to the cast pot to drink.
Everyday since putting up the pot in the tree (six months ago), birds and other animals stop by to have a drink and a bath. I get to watch them from my verandah. Sometimes there would be a small flock of nosey miners frolicking noisily just like the drinking hole had been there all along.
This story is from Myths & Legends of Fiji and Rotuma. A students’ Edition and a collection of stories and illustration by A.W Reed and Inez Hames.
This story was written as it would be told by an orator at the fireplace in Melanesian societies. So imagine you are sitting in a Melanesian village and an orator (usually a male) will be telling this story. I have added my own illustration below.
Vegetables cooked in earth oven (umuu or mumu) are fit for men and gods only when placed in baskets with succulent steaming meat, rich and layered with fat, (bel gris in Tok Pisin). Then a man may take taro, yam or greens in one hand and a piece of meat in the other, and feast as though he were a god. In those days, the only challenge is to find an animal that can be steamed or roasted to provide enough meat for hungry men to eat. Man (as in human) decides, birds and rats are far too small.
“Let’s ask the gods”, man said.
Men gathered and started up the mountain to make their request to the gods. They were accompanied by fish, reptiles, animals, birds, and insects, all curious to hear the gods’ response.
The gods, who also love good food, were in good mood and welcomed the strange query from mankind. The gods inspected the gathering. Birds and other lives cowered and withdrew into the shadows so the gods would not see them nor pick them.
One of the gods reached out and caught a rat by the scruff of its neck and held it up. With arms and legs waving into empty air, a terrified rat cried: “Not me! Not me! Please not me! I am too small. I’m all bones and I taste horrible – please let me go!”
“Yes, the rat is too small – we need a larger animal” a man said.
“What about pig?” one of the gods suggested. “Now there’s a fine animal for you; rich and savoury.”
The pig was pulled before the gods by his short tail, and shivering before the gods, he squealed: “I’m too big! You could never fit me in one of your food basket.”
“Perhaps you are right Pig”, one of the gods said. “But you may be wrong”. Then the god instructed man: “Fill up a basket and put the pig on top so you can see what he looks like on top of the serving.”
The protesting pig was put into the basket. His legs fitted inside the basket comfortably, but his snout stuck out at one end and tail out the other end.
The pig gave a broad smile and said smugly to man: “What did I tell you?”
The rat who had escaped earlier, ran forward and quickly twisted the pig’s tail into a neat swirl and tucked it into the basket.
Pig still had a smile on his face. “You’ve got my tail, but you will never get my snout inside, it is too long.”
Worm rigged himself upright until he was balanced on his coiled tail.
“What is it Worm?” a god asked.
“Please, if we break the pig’s snout we could bend it up and then he should fit into the basket”, the worm said.
And that was what they did; which explains why Pig has a turned up nose and spends so much time digging up the ground in search of worms.
I was introduced to The Tale of the Coconut last night by Professor Craig Volker who was my English Teacher in Aiyura National High School from 1981-82 in Papua New Guinea. In this story, a Duke Of York traditional story (or legend) was taken and translated it into a modern film.
Prof Volker was involved in this project, which was made in Madina, New Ireland where he comes from. He was originally from the USA, but taught and lived most of his life in PNG and has adopted Madina as his village. This film is the first PNG children’s film produced in a Tok Ples – native tongue. There are also German, English, and Tok Pisin versions.
The film was produced and directed by Marc Thümmler.
THE TALE OF THE COCONUT // DIE LEGENDE DER KOKOSNUSS (2015)
Children’s film // Kinderfilm, 15 min, 2015 SYNOPSIS
When you turn around a coconut you will find a human face on its bottom side. The children’s film THE TALE OF THE COCONUT explains why this is the case. The children of Karawara Primary School tell us an old legend from their home, the Duke of York islands in Papua New Guinea.
THE TALE OF THE COCONUT recounts how a group of men from the island leave for Pigeon Island to go hunting. After the hunt, one of the men is left behind on Pigeon Island without a raft and has to swim back home by himself. On his trip back he is attacked by a shark.
At first he cleverly distracts it with the pigeons he caught. But then he runs out of pigeons…
If you want to watch this movie, here are the links;
I am happy to send you the links to the other language versions of the film that are now available online:
English version with optional French and Spanish subs
My sister-in-law asked me once if I wanted to see ice cream cones.
“To eat?” I asked.
“No – just to see,” she said.
I thought that was a rather weird thing to suggest, until I actually saw what she meant.
Shampoo Ginger Cones are referred to as ice cream cones in Lae, Papua New Guinea where many other beautiful ginger plants are found. This plant species originated from Hawaii.
When it flowers, these tiny orchid-like bloom protrudes from the cones. It is hard to imagine that a tough, robust and rubbery bulb could produce such a delicate flower.
The featured collection (here) came from photos I took of my sister-in-law Esther Kauc’s garden. Both Esther and my mother have cultivated a wide range of ginger plants for the unique flowers and dense leafy coverage which provides shade and boundary for their homes.
Upon seeing the plants, I realised what Esther had meant. I didn’t have any urge to bite into them – but I was captivated by the ginger’s beauty so much so, I could not stop looking at them.
I wish you all mothers of the world a wonderful day and Happy Mother’s Day! In Australia we celebrated that special day today. I was especially lucky to have my mother Freda with us in Brisbane. And she and I also would like to remember an amazing woman and mother, my grandmother who gave us both life. I hope to post a story this week about one of Freda’s adventures, but for today, I want to share one of my own proud and special moments as a mother with my sons, Chris (left) and Nathan. It was the day, a long time ago when we all dressed up to celebrate the independence of Papua New Guinea and we wore our Morobean dress. We also danced on that day.
Under the leaves of the double (petal) fuchsia hibiscus is where the butterflies sleep. The withered hibiscus leaves dying and hanging, provide the perfect camouflage for the butterflies. If light does not reflect on their folding wings or their shimmering patterns, you just don’t know – that is where the butterflies sleep after dark.
How did I know this? I was helping my mother late one evening to prune these beautiful hibiscus bushes and I saw the butterflies. There were lots of them under the leaves – hanging upside down like the flying foxes. As soon as light arrived the next morning, I went to check and the butterflies had gone.