GIFTS FROM THE PAST (Part Two) ... by Rachel Borg

The yolo stone, the vesicular basalt grater that is now so iconic ally representative of our story, comes from Tahitian ofai oro.  These traditional graters are very much treasured by those families on the Island who still retain them.  Today in Tahiti the everyday oro or grater is a large flat piece of metal with multiple holes pierced in it.  This will not surprise many here on the Island as this very same design, so reflective and accommodating of changing times and new resources, is also found on Norfolk.  Concrete yolo stones are also made here but they tend in general to be not nearly as effective or efficient as the original design; or even its more modern metal counterpart.

The coconut reamer or gouger known as the ana has also come a long way in the design process though it continues to retain its name.  Originally in Tahiti the coconut ana was a piece of coral used to gouge or scrape the coconut meat from the shell.  When the Europeans introduced iron to the Pacific the general design changed from a piece of coral to a wooden board to which was fixed an iron-toothed file or scraper.  When you sit on the board and place a bucket, bowl or leaf underneath the serrated end of the ana the grated coconut falls downward and is easily collected.  Both of these methods are quite laborious ways to obtain freshly grated coconut meat.  Even today there are still quite a number of coconut ana fitting this simple description around on the Island; ours is made from miro wood and iron and is very sturdy; if there were a coconut in sight it appears as if it might well have a number of good years left in it.  In Tahiti today the ana, quite often used communally, is an industrial-strength machine which is plugged into the electricity. A fierce-looking rotating ball of metal covered in spikes makes very short work of mountains of mature coconuts.  No doubt this would be the best present a time-traveller could ever give someone in Ancient Tahiti!!  If you ever go to Tahiti I highly recommend that you try Tahitian fish e’ ia oto (oto being raw) made traditionally with toporo Tahiti (small yellow lemons) and fresh coconut; it ismana from heaven!

In the absence of the beloved coconut when the Pitcairners arrived on Norfolk they found the strong, large-leaved endemic palm which they coined the niau palm just as suitable for making the traditional niau brooms and niau baskets.  Niau is the Tahitian word for both the coconut leaf, and also the mid-rib of the palm leaflet.  While here on Norfolk the use of niau brooms and baskets have generally fallen by the wayside, given away for the most part to fantastic-plastic.  From a sentimental point of view it is simply wonderful to see these brooms and baskets being used still in Tahiti today.   It is such a tangible link to our ancestry—like playing dot-to-dot between three Islands.

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GIFTS FROM THE PAST (Part One) ... by Rachel Borg

Only one of the Polynesian women who made the journey to Pitcairn on board HMAV Bounty left behind a record of the time they spent there.  Jenny or Teehuteatuanoa’s account, of which there were two, give us an intriguing, and perhaps slightly biased, glimpse into the lives of the women on Pitcairn Island following the sinking of the Bounty; and indeed a look at life in general.    While there are many clues which hint at what the women may have done on Pitcairn and how and why things were done; what is perhaps more difficult than anything is to speak specifically to the kind of people they were and their individual character; and there are of course many who are far better qualified and better placed to attempt do so.  It is extremely difficult to paint a personal picture of these women, but undoubtedly there can be little argument that those Polynesian women very quickly inherited a fairly hefty burden of care.  By 1800, following the death of Ned Young on Christmas Day, the little community comprised of nine women, twenty-five children and one adult male in the form of John Adams. 

I have always thought of Ned Young’s death on Christmas Day as being somewhat of a pivotal, and perhaps a slightly prophetic, point in our history.  The survival of that small, very isolated community now depended very heavily on a small number of adults, and all but one of them were women—the oldest male child among them at the time being no more than ten. 

This week I would to share with you some of the material cultural heritage which speaks to the presence of the Tahitian foremothers in our Island story; wonderful tangible ways to catch a glimpse of them through the lens of time.  Collectively these items tell us a great deal of what the women might have done on a day to day basis and, not unexpectedly, many of them speak to the business of domestic labour and raising families

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STRING THEM ALONG β€” OR GIVE THEM A NIP N’ TUCK? (Part Four) ... by Rachel Borg

Most of the examples given of stringing words together, or abbreviated them, are ones which are universally accepted in Norf’k as belonging together, the ones etched in stone so to speak.  There are just as many which live in a place of uncertainty and contention and perhaps this is where flexibility and respect for personal differences of opinion should prevail.  The generally accepted rule, if it might be called that, is that when you say it together and think of it as one core concept then it is written together—added to which you also write it as you say it.  If you say it together then write it together, if you enunciate each word separately then that it how you write it. 

Spoken Norf’k has a high tendency to run words together, this is part of what give it its soft and lyrical sound.  If for example you say ‘daasdaa’ (that’s that) it is compounded, but if you say ‘daa es daa’ (that is that) then the words are separated out.  There are a whole host of Norf’k word strings like them including ‘demnortalen’ (they are not telling) which can also be written separately ‘dem nor talen’ or ‘fetwasan’ (fits worse than) can be written and said as ‘fet wasa den’ but for the most part they seem to make more sense and sound better when written together and said together.

Although it is conceded that once you begin to write a largely oral language some written forms will perhaps begin to emerge as unofficial ‘standards’.  This being said, Norf’ks fluidity and open-mindedness is very liberating.  It is descriptive and not prescriptive; and the freedom and flexibility which comes with that makes it such great fun.  At times English, for all its wonders, seems so constricted by rules and regulations as to make it somewhat stifling and cumbersome.  Norf’k on the other hand does not seem to have a multitude of hang-ups.

At the end of the day I don’t believe that to ‘join’ or ‘not to join’ carries nearly as much weight or importance as getting as many people as possible to understand exactly what it is that you mean to say.  Throughout life I have received two pieces of good advice which perhaps might apply when deciding if words should be joined or not; ‘if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it’ and ‘if it feels right, then it must be right’ – I have no idea what the lesson was .... but rather than compounding the problem I think in the end we all thrived and survived!   I also remember being told that if it went in okay; it would just as easily come out the same way ... that was a lesson in trucks and tractors and tight places; mud and trees planted in all the wrong places always seemed to compound my problem—the object was toteketiisi (take it easy) and mainaut (mind-out) bembeya (because by and by) you might well tipsais (tip-over and capsize).

Maybe now with little hind-sight it is possible to see why we like to keep it all together here on Norfolk Island.  Daaset f’ deswiik yorley, tek keya.

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STRING THEM ALONG β€” OR GIVE THEM A NIP N’ TUCK? (Part Three) ... by Rachel Borg

Reduplication is yet another way we tie words together either to emphasise or denote a wider distribution.  Many words of Tahitian origin are reduplicated, or used singularly, depending on the word and the context.  This tool is also applied to English words found in Norf’k.  Here are a few examples drawn from both our Tahitian and English glossaries - mitimiti (to quickly mix; or to kiss and cuddle repeatedly), ana’ana (bright and invigorated), huwehuwe (dirty, unclean, eerie),bonabona (lumps), mademade (muddy-muddy);  brekbrek (break-break), and boeniboeni (boney-boney).

In the ‘nip-and-tuck’ department many Norf’k words actually make very economical use of phrases; knowing their origin helps us to understand what we are saying and the kinds of contexts in which these words might best be used.

bembeya/bambeya/b’meya – means in case or in consequence, it comes from English dialectal ‘bi me bi’ or ‘by and by’ ‘Dunt yu gu udeya miekbig bembeya yu behngdaun iin em mad’ (Don’t go over there and show-off in case you fall down in the mud)

dubaagen – in Norf’k this word means ‘to pretend’; it comes from ‘do a bargain’ and relates particularly to the pretence of bargaining ‘Kam wi gu udeya dubaagen es aklan d’ wan groe daa big malan’ (Come on let’s go over there and pretend it was us who grew that big melon).

mekies/miekhies – this word comes from English ‘make haste’; ‘Wi baeta mekies for dem shop shet’ (We had better make haste or hurry up before the shops shut).

labii (leave it be) – Labi said es. (Leave it where it is); stabi (stop and leave it be) ‘Stabi ai jes ran iin deya f’ mains rienkot’ (Wait and I’ll just run in there for my raincoat); stabet (stop it and leave it) ‘Oe yoryle tuu stabet’ (Oh you two, stop it)

inkabas (I think not, indeed not) – ‘Yu gwen t’ daa kohnsat?’ – ‘Inkabas, es ai tuu nor want’ lisen gen orl dem kechen’kord, ai gwen miekaut ai gat tuu mach f’ duu’.  (Are you going to the concert? – I think not, I really don’t want to listen to all them hitting the wrong notes, I am going to pretend I have too much to do)

hepi (Heaven help me) – ‘Hepi wats aa thing shi gat orn?’ (Heaven Help me, what is that thing she’s wearing)

Norf’k very often also adds ‘an’ (one) on the end of words and this handy little joiner is used quite often:   ‘blaekan’ (black one), dohtian (dirty one), and friedian(frightening one) are a few examples of this.   Although this class of  words derives from two words it is very difficult to say them as two words without faltering; if we nip off the sound of ‘w’ and tuck the two together we easily overcome this word-flow problem. 

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