Material Culture

Material culture presentations in SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany.
Jackleen presents a coconut husk scrubbing implement called a dipoanihd in Kitti, Pohnpei. The dipoanihd is used not to clean sakau of dirt per se but rather to remove fungal and other growths that would add an extremely bitter taste to the sakau.
Vanessa gestures to indicate the actual size of a dil kahlel, a torch made of coconut leaves which is used to attract flying fish during night fishing. Flying fish season is March, hence March is also known as kahlek - dancing month. The men dance with their torches in their canoes out on the water while the women prepare land based starches at home. When the men come in a late night family feast is in order.
A dok kemelis used for pounding hard taro. While the men "dance" in their canoes during March to catch flying fish, the women pound giant swamp taro getting ready for the special meal which will follow the fishing.
Angelo brought a model of a pelek from the library, a copra grinding stool. As noted in class, once the material culture of a society is only objects in a library, then those objects have lost their cultural meaning, they are but dead things on a shelf, no more imbued with life than the books they sit next to. That said, the pelek remains in active use across Micronesia. As to whether a full sized one can be carved from a single piece of wood like the model above, a student from Yap noted that she had seen such a coconut grinding stool in Yap.
A ngarangar for the sakau ceremony. Prior to becoming a ngarangar the cup is known as a poun dal. Once sakau is in the ngarangar the cup is referred to as a kohwa. A ngarangar is special and is not used for anything other than sakau. A ngarangar may be handed down through a family. The ngarangar unites a family around the sakau cup both in the present and across the generations, across time. Tremendous symbolism surrounds the ngarangar.
Betsyna brought in a basket called a kiam used for food from the uhm (rock oven) such as pig, yam, breadfruit.
Anthony holding an uken laid model from the library. More culture on a shelf. In earlier years no student needed to "raid" the library to have something to present. Whether the present plethora of library based items is a sign of material culture loss or simply students not making the effort to bring in items remains unclear to me at this time. For some students growing up in Kolonia there may be a real dearth of actual culturally relevant items. I expect I shall have to ban library based items and see what happens.
Annjanette of Yap proper wears the marfaw'. The marfaw' is given to a girl after menarche and symbolizes that she is now a woman. When a young woman wears the ong gal' formal grass skirt, then she must also wear the marfaw'. She need not wear anything else above the waistline, but she must wear her marfaw'. In traditional times the marfaw' was made from hibiscus, with red being the traditional color of the marfaw' The marfaw' is a symbol of coming of age for a young woman in Yap.

Grass skirt names of Yap

Very young girls start off wearing a skirt called a lebwu' made from soft betelnut leaves. Once she reaches puberty she can wear the fadilap made of coconut, banana, or fern leaves. The ong gal', seen above, is worn only for special occasions such as dances. Elvira, above, wore her ong gal' for her first communion in church. When the ong gal' is worn it is worn with the marfaw'. A woman may also wear a lei. Old women wear a grass skirt called a buch made of old brown banana leaves.

Isabella brought in a lap', one of the forms of lei that a dancing women may wear. The traditional colors are red and yellow, occasionally purple. The green in the lap' above is considered somewhat non-traditional. The yellow colors are produced from the roots of Morinda citrifolia, the reds are produced by adding wine to the yellow dyes from M. citrifolia.


Mylinda brough a canoe from the library. She noted that while her grandfather still occasionally uses a canoe, she and her parents generation do not. They use outboard motor boats.

Syleen presents the nipwepwe - the Chuukese love stick - which is now little more than a curio sold to tourists, devoid of any real meaning or use. The nipwepwe almost seems to symbolize the changing social structures surrounding mate selection in Micronesia.

To be charitable, Jayheart is confused at best, presenting a highly stylized work of art based on the Chuukese nipwepwe as some sort of Pohnpeian spear. It is not. Cultural knowledge loss and devolution are quite real.

Jasmine notes the importance of Hibiscus tiliaceus in the sakau ceremony. The inner bark, seen above, may be called koht, although there was some discussion of this. The more commonly used term is that which refers to the whole plant - kohlo.

Melinda brought in a mwarmwar made from Microsorum scolopendria. This protects a dancer who is dancing outside of their kousapw - their land unit - from spiritual harm.

Judyleen holds forth on the padil - used for dances, moving canoes and potentially as a weapon. The padil is a paddle with a sharpened end point. This always leads to the question, "Which came first? Foreigners with paddles or the padil?" If the latter, what was the padil called prior to Western contact, as padil is surely the word paddle.

Juanita brought in a tuhken lup - a stick for beating laundry.

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