Thatching

This term the class used Nipa fruticans. In previous terms the class used the traditional material for Pohnpeian thatching, Metroxylon amicarum, but this requires cutting down the tree to access the fronds. Nipa fruticans can be obtained non-destructively from the plant.


The class was led off by a guest presenter, Cantina Albert of Kosrae.

Rahu: minor rafters made of either Phragmites karka (Pohnpeian: lirau) or Saccharum spontaneum (Kosraen: loa, Pohnpeian: ahlek). Today we used ahlek.


The midrib, called a rahu on Pohnpei, is being held by her foot between her largest toe and the next toe over. Cantina is working with fahsuc, Nipa fruticans, as she would on Kosrae. She noted that the fahsuc was wider than the ones she is accustomed to using on Kosrae.

Kosrae does not have oahs. Kosrae is presently thought to have only four species of palms. Coconut (Cocos nucifera), betel nut (Areca catechu), Ponapea ledermanianna (Kosrae: kitacr, Pohnpei: kedei) , and Nipa fruticans. On Kosrae Nipa fruticans is used for thatch (Kosrae: fahsuc, Pohnpei: parem). Fahsuc is narrower than oahs. Thatching frondlets are laid down in pairs and folded at the midpoint.

Nohk: The main rib of the stem of a palm frondlet. This is split with the teeth and halved to assist in bending the frondlet around the rahu. This process is necessary due to the thickness of the Metroxylon amicarum midrib (Pohnpeian: oahs). Oahs is indigenous to Pohnpei.


Nayleen sews the fronds to the rahu while Beautrina removes the nohk. The nohk cannot clearly be seen in the blog image.

There are two styles of Pohnpeian thatching, doakoahs en Ruk and doakoahs en Pohnpei. Doak means "to pierce" with a needle-like object. On Pohnpei in the past the tip of a marlin (a bill fish) was used as a needle. Today the sharpened end of a toothbrush with a hole in the end is a good needle, nails are also sometimes used. Nails with heads, however, do more damage to the frondlet due to their heads.

Doakoahs en Pohnpei differs in being laid on a 45 degree diagonal. Note that traditionally Pohnpeian thatch was not covered by a net to protect the roof from wind damage. On the flat, outer island atolls in mid-ocean the wind is a more significant source of damage. On Pohnpei rain and subsequent thatch rot are apparently more problematic. Pohnpei thatch is not netted down. The thatch is designed to catch the wind and "fluff" slightly, aiding in drying of the thatch and slowing rot.

Bersin working on doakoahs en Pohnpei but using parem. Since parem is not traditionally used, there may be no term for what he is doing.

Note that the frondlets are folded so as to create a one-third, two-thirds split in relation to the length of the frondlet. The base is one-third, the apical end is two-thirds.

String is not typically used to stitch the thatch together. Some use the outer skin of the main petiole on oahs. Others unravel rice sacks of woven plastic.

Doakoahs en Ruk displayed by Beautrina and Nayleen.


In Chuuk pandanus is used for thatch, as well as coconut palm leaf. Coconut palm leaf has a reputation for a short life span across Micronesia.

Linguistic note: dok is "pierce" while oahs refers to Metroxylon amicarum. The combining of the words is what is known in linguistics as verb noun incorporation or incorporated objects. When the word is by itself, it is dok (intransitive), which means yes, to pierce or to stab. The transitive form of it on the other hand is doakoa. The use of /oa/ is sometimes /o/, depending on the following vowel or consonant sounds. For instance, doakoahs, to pierce oahs, dokpwihk, literally to stab a pig (to pig-slaughter), dokomwomw, to spearfish,etc. [Source: Robert Andreas]

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