NON A PITKERN NORFK PERSPECTIVE

NATI ALA NONO ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, July 26, 2013



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A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING... AND EVERYTHING IN IT'S PLACE ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, July 19, 2013


Kam wi d’baagen (let’s pretend) it’s the early 1920s.  There are no cars and very few boundary fences.  Everyone travels around on foot, by horse, or by cart.  Many of the Pitcairner families have moved from Town and built homes ‘up-country’.   There aren’t nearly as many roads, and none of them are sealed or graded—they’re rugged, and rutted, and best traversed by billy goats.   Most of the Island in fact is traversed via roughly formed tracks and people tend to travel along the ridges and down through the valleys, as the birds fly so to speak, to get anywhere.  It’s quicker that way.  There are no telephones yet and where-ever it is that you are going it takes time to get there ... and time to get back.  Norfolk was as big as it was small; the pace of life was slower, but people worked harder.   Yet people who grew up on the Island through this era had kind eyes and looked back on this time fondly.  To them they were the golden years; and perhaps they were right. 


Up until the late 1950s and early 60s the Islanders knew a very different Norfolk to the one we now know today.  This was a time when a sense of place and spatial awareness relied on a certain level of intricate and collective topographical or geographical knowledge, as well as a fair deal of local and anecdotal knowledge.   In those long gone yesteryears every rock, every creek, every mound, every muddy dip, every tree of any note, and every outcrop had a name.  It makes for a very high context environment, staggering in its detail, but it was extremely useful—and it worked! 


This collective knowledge is what gave Islanders a sense of place; but the only trouble was that if you were a visitor you couldn’t buy a map because everybody carried one around in their head.  And to add to the woe each new generation placed down a new layer.  What it did mean however was that maximum use was always made of time and resources.  People held these ‘treasure maps’ in their heads so they knew where to find the best wood, where early season fruit was ripe, and the closest point for fishing, and where and when certain fish were on the bite.


To the untrained eye it was a trackless land—but to the Islanders of yore these cultural maps were an intrinsic part of their everyday lives and as familiar to them as the backs of their hands.  In dense bush where there is no line of sight these cultural maps (and a hearty set of lungs) are even more useful – in finding each other.

 

The ability to navigate by land or by sea was partly innate, partly learned from the elders, and gleaned from years of experience.   Places and placenames are a significant part of our oral history and the knowledge was passed on to the next generation in story-telling; and in the doing.   


Today when we travel by road and by motorcar, and when we buy our fresh fish and our fruit and vegetables from a store or a stall, we cannot know the land nearly as intimately as our forebears did.  Nor perhaps do we need to, for in the process we have replaced our traditional maps and traditional knowledge for a new way of navigating our world.  The old ways, the old places, and the old names are slowly dying out.


It’s intriguing however to know there is another way to look at our world.  What we cannot see is far more fascinating than what we can; and how we see or perceive what we see literally depends largely on our age, or family background, and our culture.  I see a big rock in the ocean; an Island elder sees what fish are to be caught, birds-eggs to be gathered, and how good the hihi (periwinkles) and crabs are there.  I see some flax waving about in the breeze; an elder sees endless possibilities in fibre for hats, and mats, and baskets.  I distinctly remember coming to the stark realisation that we sometimes see things differently while standing on a windy cliff-face with Elton ‘Culla’ Graham a few years back looking out along a rugged piece of Steele’s Point coastline and as he started talking I came to understand how closely he had lived to the land and the sea and how important it was to him and his family.  Not wanting particularly to romanticise the situation, or draw him as man overly emotionally connected to the land, I was struck deeply by his sense of place and his sense of belonging as he pointed out by name every rock, and bump, and lump in the panorama spread out before him revealing his intimate connectedness to the land.  It seemed natural to him to stand there and teach and explain what he knew of his world; and in that instant I came to deeply respect him and his knowledge.  In a strange, but rather difficult to explain kind of way, he was not just standing on the land – somehow he was a part of it.  You have to live long on it to know the land like that.


There are likely few of us who have grown up here and mostly travelled the Island by road who can claim to have such an intimate knowledge and association with the land; ours is a far more generalised outlook, but a no less connected view of the world we live in.  Our world is now fare more ordered by conformity and less by spontaneity.  English street signs, printed maps, and neatly graded delineations in the landscape tell us where to go, and how to get there.  Having said that, I still don’t travel about by street-names and signs – I go by feel – and when someone asks me for directions I think about how many cattlestops away it is, and what colour the fence or house is. 


Humans it seems, no matter the time or the place, have an inner compulsion to label and name things, sometimes for practical purposes, at other times for more abstract or esoteric reasons.  What strikes one often about Island cultural placenames is how human contact and interaction are such an integral part of our story down the generations, and how it is so frequently reflected back in the choice of placenames used in daily conversation.  

Many Island cultural placenames have a deeply personal association:  some are funny, some are sad, while some are warnings, and others might even be said to be contentious.  Some are known by everybody, some are not known outside a particular family group, and some (like Beefsteak) remain a complete mystery.  Many of them are highly idiosyncratic.  What is most certain is that the few of them can be seen on an ordinary map or on a sign-post; and how-ever they came to be embedded in the landscape they are all very strong markers of Island culture, sense of place, and identity.


As you can imagine the majestic omniscient Norfolk pine was a significant part of this cultural map-making process.  Large pines as features in the landscape hold some prominence  and were given specific names and used regularly as reference points on land and from the sea.  They were meeting points, and direction finders, and many were also part of the triangulation point system used by fisherman in lining up off-shore fishing grounds before GPS come along.  Some of these living geographical marker points included Ar Pine fer Robinsons, Lone Pine, Point Hunter Pine, Low-Top Pine and of course The Tree of Knowledge in Pine Avenue, the pine tree on which news was faithfully posted until it was destroyed in order to construct the air-strip during the Second World War.


When the Pitcairners came to Norfolk in 1856 it was undoubtedly a strange and foreign landscape with many new things to see, to learn about, and to discover.  The convict-built underground grain silos in Kingston were referred to as ‘Dem Mummy’ by the Pitcairners and was likely a reference to the Egyptian mummies given their sealed off tomb-like appearance.  Without a known English equivalent, the Islanders also continued to apply words from their own vocabulary to features in the landscape.  The small islets in streams are known as fatafata (a word of Tahitian origin).  Fatafata became the name of a place down behind New Cascade and Mill Road in which a particularly large fatafata is found.


Many other placenames refer to natural features or phenomena in the landscape such as Mu’uu (cliff flax) Stone, Titerack (white-capped noddy) Valley, Bumboras, Skate Harbour, and Palm Glen.  Some natural features even formed useful human functions.  Stone fer George and Issacs is a large off-shore rock which was lined up on land and used as a convenient on-shore boundary marker.


Other placenames hand on useful information such as Side Suff (where waves) Fly Past which is a fishing spot with obvious hazards, while the name Suicide Rock is a safety warning providing a less than subtle hint to be careful and very aware of sea conditions.  Best also to avoid Ghost Corner and Ghosey-Ghosey after dark if you can help it!


Perhaps by far the most common cultural placenames on Norfolk refer to people.  Understandably the list is almost endless.  Some are now considered standard and so entrenched in popular folklore and tradition that they have not changed over many generations – these include Hennie’s Lake, Freddicks Age (Frederick’s Edge), Simon’s Water, and Matt’s Ground.  Others change from one generation to the next, particularly depending on who owns or occupies the land.  This is a characteristic part of the naming and claiming tradition or continuum - Alec’s Paddock one day became Boo-Boo and Doodsie’s Paddock, which in turn became Joy ‘Boo-Boo’s’ paddock, and so on.


Islanders also love practical jokes, and share a well-developed sense of mischief and fun.  They can dine long on a funny incident.  Some placenames have hilarious histories for which Islanders seem to have a keen memory.  Now-Now Valley is a particularly steep almost gorge-like valley up-in-a-stick and this valley was the long-ago site of a pig-chase which went awry.  Several men were out in hot pursuit of a run-away pig, on getting suitably close to the quarry one of the men yelled out ‘Now! Now!’.  The gun-man, too slow off the mark, proceeded to take empty pot-shots at the rapidly disappearing rear-end of the indignant scurrying grunter.  News travels far and fast across the five-minute wide Island and the man returned to face the mirth of many.  This story has been told over and over again with much relish—and Now-Now Valley lives on in perpetuity to tell the tale.


Side Johnny Niga Bun-et (Where John Jackson Burnt it) is another tale in which the trottered remain triumphant.  John Jackson was an American Whaler who married and settled on the Island.  Out pig hunting one day on the Northern coastline he decided to flush the pig out with fire, which led to an uncontrolled coastal fire that leaped wildly through the long dry grass and bracken and galloped down the cliff-face with such pace and ferocity that by the time it had died out it had scared the cliff-face and ripped through a large area of land burning it to a sorry black frizzle—with not a porker left in sight! 

 

Islanders are also equally inclined to name both land and sea as they both play an equally important part in our lives; and none more-so than during the Island’s largely subsistence years.  Some placenames also come from specific periods in our history, such as the whaling era, which relied on seasonality.   Johnnie Stone was named after John ‘Black-Jack’ Jackson, son of the American whaler John ‘Johnnie’ Jackson, who was apparently a rather kased (mischievous and fun-loving) individual.  The story goes that Johnnie fastened a whale to his boat and it dragged him over the rock off Rocky Point during high tide and from thereon in this stone was always ‘Johnny’s Stone’ — which in time  has simply been shortened and known as Johnnie Stone.


Some placenames of similar ilk have seemingly innocuous beginnings but important functions in everyday life. Many of the early fishing spots were found by the whalemen when they were out having their lunch on the water.  If things were quiet and whales had not been seen that day they would drop a line over the side and fish. If they found a particularly good spot they would use triangulation methods to pinpoint the ‘mark’ for next time.  Islanders can sometimes be particularly protective of their fishing marks which include places like ‘No Trouble’, ‘Shallow Water’ and ‘Horse and Cart’.  ‘Tin Bank’ is one such mark passed on by one particular whaling crew and the misfortune suffered by one particular whaler.  While having his wetls (lunch) his tin box fell over the side and he could not retrieve it.  The place turned out to be an easy place to hook prize trumpeter—so they named it ‘Tin Bank’ in honour of the lost lunch box.


Land Stephen and Jacob’s Rock recall incidents which entailed no loss of life, but recall historically where people were landed on off-shore rocks for various reasons.  Other placenames like Monty out at Rocky Point have much more sombre associations; this is known as Side Monty Down and is where nine-year old Montague ‘Monty’ Christian accidentally downed.   Such place names hold great meaning for many people for a very long time.


Placenames clearly are important markers of time, place, events, and people.  Although times change and progress and shift happens, much remains hidden within the multiple layers of history that have been laid down on the land over time; but one thing remains a given and a constant in it all.


Everyone on Norfolk knows there is no better place than ‘God’s Country’.  Just where it is remains highly subjective and the discourse on the matter is as long as your arm.  God’s Country is often the cause of good-natured ribbing here on Norfolk because it doesn’t matter which part of the Island you live in each person will claim that their little piece of heaven is God’s country!  It’s a long-standing joke, and as everyone makes the same claim, so the myth and the mystery lives on!


So next time when you sit and listen to the wind blow over the hills and valleys of Norfolk dipping and swirling among the thousand nooks and countless crannies imagine it travelling swift of foot overland as our forebears did.  Like the blessedly eternal wind which has blown from the very foundation of time, they knew this land in its every guise, they knew this land in a way that we never could, they loved the land for what it was and what it gave, and they trod far lighter upon it than we now do.


Perhaps we still have much to learn from the past and our forebears.  How they knew the land and named the land was an integral part of how they lived on the land.  It tells us much about how they viewed themselves and their relationship to the land—and much about how they wished to remember it. 

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NORFOLK TIME - TAKING TIME, MAKING TIME... AND WAITING

Friday, July 12, 2013


There are no traffic jams, no traffic lights, no parking meters, and no parking inspectors.  You can always find a parking spot; and when you travel at a leisurely forty kilometres an hour through the main township there is no such thing as road rage – in fact the very idea of getting cross with other road users doesn’t even enter your mind.  Nobody seems to be in too much of a hurry here and when they smile and wave at you as they pass (instead of giving you the naughty finger) life suddenly takes on a different hue. 


In the beginning it might be a little disconcerting, even alien, until it slowly dawns on you that you have really left that other world far behind.  Now you’re on Norfolk time.


For this reason some people who visit Norfolk feel like they have entered a strange kind of time warp – gone back to another time and place where the pace of life was slower, where people were friendlier, and where everyone had time for each other.  Life is much more intimate and humanising and people feel close and connected when they are acknowledged, and seen, and heard.  They begin to smile, relax, and put their faith back in human nature and the goodness which can be found there.


As much as we all joke about ‘Norfolk time’ there is actually a lot to be said in its favour.  There are many kinds of wealth; our common-wealth, fiscal wealth, environmental wealth, health-wealth, and social wealth.  They are all more or less important parts of the communal wealth formula.  But just what emphasis and priority we collectively place on each of these factors says a great deal about our society and our culture.  In Bhutan, for example, they place such a high degree of importance on happiness that they actually measure GNH – Gross National Happiness.


‘Norfolk time’ is very much a part of our ‘happiness equation’; it’s part of our Island’s philosophy and it’s ingrained into our psyche.  If you are brought up on ‘Norfolk time’ you are so habituated to it that you barely notice it because this is just the way life is.  And if you make Norfolk your home in later life you will either learn to deal with it and accept it—or die of frustration!


If you have been brought up on ‘Norfolk time’ you learn that sometimes you must wait, and wait ... and wait.  You learn early on that things will take as long as they take, that all things happens in their own good time, and that when the time comes, that will be the right time.  When you live on ‘Norfolk time’ you learn that some things can’t be hurried. Throw you clock away and simply wait.   Wait for the cargo ship to arrive, wait for the perfect tide, and better weather; wait for the plumber, or the builder, wait for the fruit to come into season, you wait for the rain.  And boy is that worth the wait!   


When you live in such isolation and live so close to the earth and the elements; and when you cannot control the wind, the rain, or the ocean, there is nothing else to do but wait.  Just how you deal with this waiting largely depends on your philosophical outlook. From this waiting you can learn valuable life lessons about patience, perseverance, tolerance, and resilience.  All good things come to those who wait.  You will also learn to cope with disappointment when—after all that waiting—what you were waiting for doesn’t materialise.  It’s missed the ship ... again!   You will just have to wait. 


This is not to say there is nothing to do but wait; you simply do other things while you are waiting.  Just how you deal with the waiting is central to the concept of ‘Norfolk time’ and is largely dependant on your philosophical outlook. 


Time you see is relative.  A five hour drive is nothing to someone who lives in the Australian outback – it’s a weekly jaunt into town to go shopping and catch a movie.  On Norfolk however most of us need a pretty good reason to take the seven to fifteen minute drive ‘aut yena’ (out yonder) to Steele’s Point, Rocky Point, or Anson Bay.  It’s soooOOOO far!  On the up-side, there is a fabulous immediacy about island life and island time isn’t there.  What we can do with time on Norfolk is a great privilege.  We don’t have to use up time sitting in a traffic jam.  It’s not two literal hours (and a lifetime metaphorically) to grandma’s house.  We can see the sun set and rise all in one day.  We can be at the beach (or at work) in a few minutes.  We don’t have to choose – we can do both!  We can also make plans to catch up with family and friends at the drop of a hat; and we can simply look out the kitchen window at the day and the weather before deciding what to do today without relying on long-range forecasts.


Here is a great illustration of how we can sometimes have different perceptions of time.  A lady who grew up on a large sheep-farm in the out-back was spending time with her ‘Island family’ out in the garden.  She looked up at the sky at the heavy black clouds rolling in from the distant horizon and casually remarked ‘I think it’s going to rain soon’.  They looked at her perplexed and continued on working.  About an hour later the rain came.  She realised that to them ‘soon’ had a far greater sense of immediacy.  For her ‘soon’ meant time enough to get back to the shelter of the shearing shed which might be as much as half an hour or more away.  To her island friends ‘soon’ was no more than a few minutes away.  They did not watch the clouds rolling in from the horizon, instead they waited for the air to suddenly turn cool, for the wind to die down, and the earth to still.  To them, when it was going to rain ‘soon’ they would have just enough time to make a two minute mad dash back to the house or nearby shed for shelter before the deluge came. 


Morla el duu (tomorrow will do) is another aspect of Island life which is very much a part of the ‘Norfolk time’ philosophy.  ‘Tomorrow will do’ is not necessarily about putting off until tomorrow what can be done today, it is not laziness, or lack of care.  It is learning to accept that only so much can be done in a day, a week, a year, or a life-time.  It is, in part, also saying what we have not achieved today can be done tomorrow.  It is permission to take time out, to rest, and rejuvenate. 


It is likely a large part of the work-life balance which contributes to our healthy level of social wealth here on Norfolk.  Often when we say ‘morla el duu’ we are making a conscious decision to take time out to dedicate to our families, our friends, our volunteer work, or a much loved past-time.  This is ‘Norfolk time’—this is the time we dedicate to our GNH (Gross National Happiness).


The intrinsic value of ‘Norfolk time’ to our tourism industry should also never be under-estimated.   Visitors enjoy the slower pace of life—escapism is after all a fantastic form of therapy.  When people are on holiday they enjoy clocking-off, knocking-off, and switching off.  Instead they plug-in to each other and humanity.  Someone coined a phrase for this behaviour, it’s called ‘quality time’.  Visitors often express their surprise, and sometimes awe, at the friendliness of the Island people, but behind it lays a fairly simple ethos.  We are taught from an early age to give others respect and the time of day.  Any time is a good time for a chat; but believe it or not in some places it seems like it’s a dying art and this is what makes our visitors so grateful for the time we make or take out of our day to stop and chat, and connect, and share.  The often comment that this aspect of Island life has been a highlight of their holiday.


‘Norfolk time’ is never a waste of time, it’s an important part of who we are; it’s real, it’s authentic, and it’s very very good for our GNH.  So here’s a little poem about the joys, as well as the trials and tribulations, of living on ‘Norfolk time’.


NORF’K TAIM                                    NORFOLK TIME       

Ai s’ kam uya f’ stiehw’laut                                  I have come over here to settle and rest

En liiw mais bisi laif b’hain                                 and leave my busy life behind

F’ tek’ hili en dan’ bas                                          To take a rest and stop working so hard

En f’ pieh mais bohs noe main.                             and to pay my boss no mind.

Dem tal wi nor mekies uya                                    They say ‘We don’t make-haste over here’

En daa gwen suut aklan fain                                and that will suit us fine

Kos salan uya s’ laan’ mii ‘Wi orl orn                  Because people over here have told me

Norf’k taim’.                                                        ‘We’re all on Norfolk time’.

En wail ai sloeli teken et iin                                 And while I am slowly taking it in

Mais oel kaa paek ap staat                                   my old car packed up and left me

En aa mien from ap’ roed                                     And the man from up-the-road

Tal uni want wan paat                                         Says it only wants a part

En haes mii ya stil shaenksenet                            And here I am still walking

Kos aa thing stil orn aa shep –                              Because the thing’s still on the ship

En Norf’k taim sloeli sinken orn iin,                    And ‘Norfolk time’ is slowly sinking on in

Lorngf’ ewri plari step!                                         With every blooming step!

Soe ai s’ kam f’ jes shep’lorng                               So I have learnt to just smooch along

Tek wan dieh aet a taim                                       and take one day at a time

F’ baeli ap wen want’ slip,                                   To lie down belly-up when I want to sleep

En pat mais huf ap anda dem pain                       and put my feet up under the pines

F’ gubaut talan ‘Watawieh?’                                 To go about saying ‘Watawaye?’

En f’ pieh mais klok noe main                              and to pay my watch no mind

Kos d’ wan ai gat uni stohliyen,                            because the one I have is only making up stories

En gat noe haan yet ai el fain.                              and has no hands yet I can find.

Soe semesthing brad daas d’ endowet;                    So it seems now mate that’s the end of it;

wi s’ matapili ya orn ii rok,                                  we are stuck hard here on this rock,

Kos Norf’k taim es gudatun —                             because Norfolk time is good as gold —

En wi nor mus’ wantet stop!                                 and I don’t nearly want it to stop!

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UCKLUN ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, July 05, 2013


In Pitcairn-Norf’k this word has great significance.  It likely derives from ‘our clan’ but its origins, or even its various spellings, are not nearly as important as how we use it.  Used correctly and respectfully it has incredible powers of inclusivity and solidarity ‘Wael dan orl aklan’ (Well done everybody!), but used in a slightly more careless or off-handed manner it can be a very divisive, hurtful, exclusive, and some might even say an elitist term. 


This week let’s look at what is probably the first piece of written Norf’k to make its way into a wider public forum - Ucklun.  While most historical documents written in Norf’k which have survived are intimate in nature and generally pieces of personal correspondence the following poem, which was later sung, has survived for a very specific reason.  It grew up out of the suppression years; years in which the Islanders grappled with the challenges and intricacies of ‘proper’ English, and years in which children were corporally punished for ‘killing the Queen’, ‘Murdering His/Her Majesty’, and ‘breaking the Crown’ at home, and in their classrooms daun’taun, aut’stieshan, en ap Medlgiet.


Although Ucklun is not out-rightly subversive it hints at rebellion and the desire for solidarity against a tide of suppression and over-arching authority.  Its saving grace and end-note is its light-hearted and at times self-deprecating tone; even though its main message and focus is the plight of Island school children. 


The shared pain and sense of failure the writer expresses to his fellow classmates is endearing and one gets a deeps sense of comaraderie in their communal suffering.   Ucklun is the epitome of empathy—don’t we all like to feel understood—and was well-crafted enough to have survived in memory long after it was written.  It is the kind of empathy which seems to speak from experience and it was likely, for this very reason, written by a school-child—or adult who had once ‘walked-the-walk’ so to speak—and had himself experienced both the prejudices of authorities, and the linguistic dilemmas of translating from one language into another, while trying at the same time to learn and communicate back challenging new concepts.  Its greatest feat, in retrospect, is that it so neatly encapsulates the state of school education on Norfolk Island in the late 1800s and early-mid 1900 in which it was clearly asserted that English was the only permissible and legitimate language.


While there is some contention as to who may have written it, there is both written and anecdotal evidence to suggest that it was written by George Edward ‘Putt’ Nobbs.  ‘Putt’ was born in 1860, four years after the Pitcairn Island community transferred to Norfolk in 1856.  George Edward ‘Putt’ Nobbs was George Hunn Nobbs’ grandson; and if it helps any, I am led to believe that he was also kased (mischievous).


Ucklun was possibly written either in the 1870s-1880s when he was at school, or as an adult reminiscing in the 1920s and 30s on his school years and experiences as a native Norf’k speaker.    The presence of the examiners ‘Peter, Tom, and Jack’ if nothing else, does at least put the period being written about in a more precise time-frame.  If only we knew more about them?


As well as being recited it was also sung by the school children.  Maude Buffett, Beryl Nobbs, and Audrey Robinson all remembered singing it in the 1930s.  It is artfully written.  As a child’s naive and straight-forward statement of the difficulties in achieving English language skills of a sufficient nature to cope with institution led learning it is quite captivating.  When sung it follows a simple, primarily descending, stepped pattern similar to many children’s songs.  It is clearly intended to be easily learnt and easily sung.


This poem, and song, made a brave social statement and its contemporary recollection emphasises its special status in the Island’s song repertoire.  Having said this, it was only ever sung publicly on a few occasions (the reason being more than clear) but behind the scenes it was ‘soup for the soul’, a morale booster, slightly naughty and rebellious, but uplifting in an incredibly unifying way.


Ucklun (Aklan) by George ‘Putt’ Nobbs

Ai wish ai el laan’ yorlye                                           I wish I could tell you all

Hau haad wi letl salan fain                                      How hard we children find

F’ riid en rait en tork gud Inglish                            To read and write and speak good English

En tork et aut auwas main.                                     And speak it from our minds

 

Wi goe t’ skuul mus ewri dieh                                 We go to school almost every day

F’ trai en lern’ thing                                                    To try and learn things

Wi riid en rait, en tork en plieh                               We read and write, and talk and play

En samtaim yuus’ sing.                                             And sometimes we sing

 

En wen wi orl gu hoem fram skuul                       And when we go home from school

We naewa trai en duu                                               We never try and do

Dem thing auwas tiicha tal’ aklan                        The things our teachers tell us

Wi naewa torket tuu.                                                We never talk it too

 

Wi biin eksaemen et agien                                       We have been examined again

Wi wasan fas yu bliiw                                                We are much worse than first believed

Kos yorlye noe dem Inglishmien                            Because you know the Englishmen

Wi naewa el dsiiw                                                       We never can deceive

 

Orl auwas eksaemenas                                            All our examiners

Es Piita, Tohm, en Jaek,                                            Are Peter, Tom, and Jack

Du yorlye wari ef wi nor                                            Don’t you worry if we don’t

Get eni prais des taek.                                               Get any prize [for] this tack

 

Nau ai s’ dan en ai bet                                              Now I am done and I bet

Orl yorlye glehdes mii                                                You’re all as glad as me

Yu orl tal ieh thing es waawaha                            You say this thing is stuck-up

En semiswieh es mii.                                                   And as awkward as me


taek (English: tack) – English sea-faring term ‘tack’ (still in use today) refers to sailing vessels.  Sails are manoeuvred against the wind to change the vessel’s course or direction.  In this instance ‘tack’ refers to taking a particular course of action.  Uncle Putt is saying to the other students ‘Don’t worry if there are no prices for taking this tack (course of action).


In 1953 Francis Nobbs wrote out the Norf’k version of Ucklun which he annotated as ‘N.I. School kids’, and he accompanied it with an English translation.  This is the earliest known written record of Ucklun.  A later type-written version is simply headed ‘Uncle Poot’.


This poem is highly effective in the message it conveys.  It is certainly one that children who struggled to speak English and failed would whole-heartedly embrace.  In the face of repeated failure it offers comfort and courage by saying ‘du wari ef you nor get eni prais des taek’ (don’t worry if you don’t get a prize for taking this tack or direction).


In its sheer simplicity and slight childish naivety it contains many messages and life lessons.  That it’s okay to be who you are, that you can choose your own path, that what is put before you as best practice is not always necessarily the right way, or the right way for you.  That it is okay to stand up for what you believe in; and that you need to think autonomously in life, and not take everything at face value.  Teaching children how to think and not what to think is far more important.  In this ever-so subtle way the poem’s student author also becomes both a teacher and leader.


It quite likely too that this verse has survived because of its slightly rebellious nature; there is something mildly appealing about being a little bit naughty and defiant, even mildly revolutionary.  The fact that it could be sung also clearly added to its broader appeal; Islanders have always loved to sing.  It was also written from the ‘inside’ by ‘one of their own’.  Added to this is the fact that it originated in a large Island family so it would have been handed down both orally and in written form from one generation to the next generation.  It offered a healing salve, and a way to solidarity in its mild messages of self-defence and self-acceptance.


It also finishes on a slightly self-satisfied and self-deprecating note, which is a very common trait found among the Islanders and Uncle Putt put-down at the end endears himself to his readers.  In fact it is culturally unwise in Island life to be seen to put yourself above others and in ending in this vein it is a great leveller.  If you don’t like his poem Uncle Putt is saying  you will be as glad as I am that it is over, because you might all say this poem is just as stuck-up, sly, and conceited as I am.


Like most Islanders music was a big part of the fabric of his life.  In later life Uncle Putt was also a member of the Norfolk Island civic-ceremonial brass band under the guidance of Lieutenant General Parnell, previous commandant of the Australian military college at Duntroon, and administrator on the Island from 1920-1924.


George ’Putt’ Nobbs died in 1958 having left our world a little richer.  This poem, either recited or sung to a very simple tune, became his lasting legacy to the Norf’k language

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I WAS A STRANGER AND YOU WELCOMED ME ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, June 28, 2013


Sometimes the songs, the ditties, the hymns, and the anthems we sing are so much a part of the fabric of our lives we give little thought to how they came to be, why they are, and what they truly mean to us as a people or as individuals.  Why do these songs and anthems endure, and what do they say about us and our collective values? 


This week with the World Day of Prayer and Harmony Day just behind us we are going to take a look at the Pitcairn Anthem, the words of which are taken from the Book of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament.  It was likely taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible and as we head into the Easter period it is timely to meditate upon the life and times of Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago and how heavily the teachings of the Holy Bible have influenced our history and our culture and guided us in our daily lives.


PITCAIRN ANTHEM

‘Come Ye Blessed’

Paraphrased from Matthew Chapter 25: Verses 34-46

Then shall the King say unto them,

On His right hand –

 

Come ye blessed of my Father

Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you

From the foundation of the world.

 

I was enhungere’d and ye gave me meat,

I was thirsty and ye took me in,

I was a stranger and ye took me in,

Naked and ye clothed me,

I was sick and ye visited me,

I was in prison and ye came unto me;

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one

Of the least of these my brethren,

Ye have done it unto me.

Ye have done it unto me.

It is believed that the Pitcairn Anthem was written on Norfolk Island and originally only sung on Norfolk; although today it is known on both Norfolk Island and Pitcairn Island.  There is some suggestion that it was co-composed by Driver Christian and George Hunn Nobbs and that this collaboration most likely happened on Norfolk post-1863; in other words after the last group of Pitcairn Island returnees left Norfolk to re-settle back on Pitcairn as there is no written record or anecdotal evidence of it having been sung at an earlier time.  Having said that, Island elders like Alice Buffett say they don’t remember the Pitcairn Anthem being sung on the Island before the 1970s.  So while the timing and credit for its authorship seems unclear, what can perhaps be said with a little more certainty however is that the choice of the words from Matthew 25 were culturally appropriate and very much in line with our communal value systems. 


The Pitcairn Anthem is sung in many different situations, mostly in public, and like any anthem of this nature, there are a few traditions associated with the singing of the Anthem.  We always stand and take our hats off, and the community is generally led by a senior solo male singer in the singing of the Pitcairn Anthem which commences with a quasi-chant like rendition of the first two lines. Great honour is bestowed on those male singers elected to lead Island gatherings in singing the Pitcairn Anthem; the two most notable male soloists of course being the much-loved late Ben ‘Carty’ Christian and George ‘Kik’ Quintal.  Despite its somewhat pious nature, it has an overriding and  deep sense of universal spirituality.  It is reassuring and comforting, and its aspirations are for communal and global well-being – all of which has ensured the Anthem’s continued prominence in Island life. 

 

 The Pitcairn Anthem is sung at public functions, funerals, assemblies, concerts, prize-givings, Anniversary (Bounty) Day and sometimes in less formal situations.  Today of course its words take on their greatest poignancy when sung at funerals. 

 

Historically song and dance has certainly been central in forging our culture, our heritage, and our identity and there is a core repertoire of songs and hymns which are an important affirmation of our community’s identity and its values.  Our community has had a long and strong tradition of hymn singing in formal situations (churches and religious contexts, concerts, ceremonies) and informal social contexts (such as walking and talking, riding, driving around, at parties, and picnics and socialising in general).  Men and women, both young and old, are passionately fond of singing, music, and dancing.  We sing on welcoming and parting, when walking, and working, and celebrating.  During the whaling era the whalemen also sung to regulate the rhythm of the oars while rowing, and those gathered on shore sung to guide the whaleboats home.  


Singing, especially hymn singing, is a distinctive and enjoyable way of maintaining social cohesion, teaching collective social mores and value systems,  managing crisis, and fostering faith, gratitude, respect, reverence, and resilience.  Islanders enjoy harmonising and their voices are powerful and sweet in their simplicity and their honesty.  We all grow up with music in our hearts and in our homes. 


By the 1850s hymn singing had been a staple of island life for over fifty years, particularly as part of the processes of regular worship and fellowship.  In July 1856 Frederick Howard, midshipman on HMS Herald, which was here when the Pitcairners arrived, wrote to his sister of ‘singing meeting[s] ... like those they had twice a week on Pitcairn’ which lasted about 2 hours, where they sung glees, simple songs, anthems, and hymns; and where they divided into four groups (for four part harmonies), and that they sung not for effect but for pleasure.  There have been many observations made over the years of this musicality in various contexts, both religious and social, all accompanied by a commitment to hymn singing, and a love of dancing and sociability in general.   

 

Anthems the world-over are songs of praise, and devotion; and whether they are national anthems or rock anthems they are a very potent form of song which generally has a powerful message and ability to achieve a sense of unification or solidarity.  The Pitcairn Anthem is a special kind of hymn.  An anthem in this context is a specific form of Anglican Church music with a moralising theme.  This kind of anthem is generally a piece of sacred vocal music taken from the scriptures. 


The words of anthems are generally known ‘off-by-heart’ by large numbers of people.  The words and their sentient normally have great meaning to those who sing it and although in the case of the Pitcairn Anthem the lyrics are quite pious, it does not immediately or necessarily suggest a secular application.  The words and the sentiment behind the Pitcairn Anthem are for everyone, and this is in  part of what has made it a significant song in our largely Christian community.  The lessons found therein are also the universal lessons of humanity which we can all relate to in some way, no matter what our religious persuasion.   At its core the Pitcairn Anthem is about values education.


Let’s have a closer look at the words themselves.


Then shall the King say unto them,

On His right hand –

 

The King of course is God, our supreme, holy, and heavenly Father who reigns over us.  When Christians use the term God it refers to the Trinity – God the Father, The Son [Jesus Christ] and The Holy Spirit.  In these two lines the King, in this case the son of God, Jesus Christ, has returned to earth to fulfil God’s promise of salvation and resurrection of the faithful.  He turns to those of His flock who believe and have faith and are seated on His right hand side and says to them:-

 

Come ye blessed of my Father

Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you

From the foundation of the world

 

‘Come all those who are blessed by faith, come those who follow the word of the Lord and believe in God the Heavenly Father’ for you will inherit the Kingdom [ie Heaven, the Heavenly Kingdom and the promise of eternal life] which has been prepared for you from the ‘foundation’ of the world [ie since God created the world, since the beginning of creation].

 

I was enhunger’d and ye gave me meat

I was thirsty and ye gave me drink

I was a stranger and ye took me in

Naked and ye clothed me

I was sick and ye visited me

I was in prison and ye came unto me

 

Here Jesus, son of our Heavenly Father, explains that the righteous and those who have faith and believe and have followed the Lord and his word in their actions will be blessed by the promise of eternal life.  Jesus says that in his time of need the righteous have fed him, given him drink, clothing, cared for him when he was sick, and visited him when imprisoned.  These words encourage us to mediate on the many ways in which God has mercy and provides for us, it encourages us to meditate on and develop gratitude for His many blessings, and above all it encourages us to treat each other well and look after each other as God looks after us.  These are just some of the many ways we can demonstrate our faith and show mercy.

 

In as much as ye have done it unto one

Of the least of these my brethren

Ye have done it unto me

Ye have done it unto me

 

Jesus says here that as much as you have cared for and blessed with kindness and mercy and without discrimination the least of my brethren [the least of my fellow human beings] you have also done it unto me; in other words in caring for those who have less or are possessed of less than you, you have cared for God equally and in the same manner and shown you are righteous and true.  You have cared equally for those who are less fortunate, less able, or who are of lesser faith, etc and this is the right way and God’s way because in God’s eyes we are all created equal.

 

The Pitcairn Anthem is a lesson in gratitude; a reminder of the benevolence of God and His gifts to us, and above all a reminder to show mercy, look after and care for one another, treat others as you would like to be treated yourself and as God treats us.

 

‘Love one another even as I have loved you’ [John 13:34]

Our culture (our way) is one of deep faith and reciprocity where sharing, and re-distribution are fundamental principles.  Its core or foundation is not nuclear but communal.  In essence, it is designed to preserve life – to feed, to cloth, to care for, and to support one another.  Traditionally Islanders are reared to have faith and to the belief that ‘God will provide’ in every way and that all gifts come from Him.  We are taught to live the motto ‘in as much’ in our daily lives, in other words we give service to god, to each other and to our community, we give to those who have less, we take in our own and others and care for them,  we invite strangers in as friends, we are merciful and kind, we look after the aged and the ill, as well as the young and incapacitated, and we go to those who are imprisoned by walls, or by circumstance, and we lift them up bodily and in spirit.


The point on which the Pitcairn Anthem pivots is the Island motto ‘inasmuch’ which is the motto found on the Norfolk Island Coat of Arms.  The Armorial Ensigns for Norfolk Island were granted and assigned by Royal Warrant by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Court on board H.M. Yacht Britannia on 20 October 1980 and the Coat of Arms also appears on the Public Seal of Norfolk Island.  The fundamental philosophy of ‘in as much’ urges us to treat others equally, with humanity, mercy, and generosity and in a spirit of godliness, goodness, and compassion.   


The Pitcairn Anthem is above all a utopian anthem which suggests a better world in which we all might live together in peace, harmony, and goodwill ~ and that is something which should never lose its relevance or go out of fashion.  Anieh!

 

References

Holy Bible (King James Version)

Bounty Chords by Philip Hayward

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A DEAD COW IS NOT NEARLY AS USEFUL AS A LIVING ONE ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, June 21, 2013



a brief backwards glance at

weaving & plaiting words in Pitkern-Norf’k

Language and culture are inter-dependant; one does not survive well without the other.  When a cultural practise or a way of doing things becomes obsolete or ceases to be done in a certain way the words we use to describe the processes and the end results are also lost with it.  This is what has happened with many of the weaving and plaiting words in Pitkern-Norf’k.  These words are much like the intrepid cow which reached too far over the cliff to claim the very last blade of green summer grass—little was gained—and much was lost.  At the end of the day, though it had hung on precariously in the balance, it is now gone forever s’ matemate (it is dead in the most absolute way possible) and there is little, if anything, to be gained now from its retrieval. 


Clearly a dead cow is not nearly as useful as a living one; and nor is a dead language nearly as useful as a living one.  Perhaps then there is more hope, and merit to be found, in the general idea of being able to teach an old dog new tricks?  Therein also lays another rather controversial point, and one of much academic contention.  Just what, if any, might the true benefit be of teaching an old dog a new way of doing things, even though these ‘new’ tricks may well be based on tried and true methods, and on the collective wisdom of its very own faithful doggy-dog ancestors? 


Perhaps things should be left just as they are?  What after all is the real use in re-culturalisation and revitalisation.  What value lays in the past, and what value lays in bringing things back?  Is it necessary?  Is it prudent?  Is it sustainable?  Is it possible?


Should we fight linguistic change or accept it as the natural course of events.  Is deciding to simply accept that linguistic shift happens the same as the old dog who decides to lay down, roll over, and die?  Perhaps instead we should just put it all in a jar and leave it to moulder on the shelf? 


But who among us can truly answer these questions.


Over the past several weeks we have looked at the range of lovely natural fibres we use in weaving and plaiting here on Norfolk, and then in turn we have taken a closer look at the principles and practices of both weaving and plaiting.  Without any shadow of a doubt there has been a fantastic resurgence of interest in weaving and plaiting as a cultural reference point, as a marker and means of acknowledging and preserving heritage, and as an art-form.  If it is not re-culturalisation then certainly the threads which held it all together and perpetuated our weaving and plaiting traditions had become increasingly weaker over time as the final generations of truly traditional weavers and plaiters bowed out and left us.  That old work-worn generation who produced woven and plaited items by the buggy-load simply because they needed hats, and they need mats, and screens, and bags, and baskets in their everyday lives.  To them it was not art for arts sake; but hats and mats for necessities sake. 


Though those times are gone ... perhaps they may come again? 


So in that general, and slightly reflective, spirit and given the place plaiting and weaving holds in our history and heritage let’s have a peek at the few weaving and plaiting words which remain in our lexicon, as well as those which are likely now completely lost to us, and a few of the words which might have been had someone had the presence of mind to record them so very long ago.


These words in their origin clearly reflect our Anglo-Polynesian heritage, though the work itself of weaving and plaiting was almost exclusively a feminine domain—women’s business.  Today on Norfolk this is however far less the case as some of our best weavers and plaiters are men.


While the following two words have never been recorded for Pitkern-Norf’k they were certainly part of the Tahitian women’s vocabulary and only included as a point of historical interest.   Words such as firi to plait (as in hair, a sennit, &c) and items such as taumata – a Tahitian bonnet of coconut leaves were no doubt a part of our foremother’s lexicon; but this is only a glimpse at what might have been.


Today here on Norfolk, and on Pitcairn, to prepare your fibres for both plaiting and weaving you p’hieh (strip) them.  This is a Tahitian origin word pihae meaning to rend or tear a thing.  In plaeten (plaiting) a senet (sennit) or strip of plaited material it is measured in arm lengths.  Eight arm lengths for a child’s hat, 15 arm lengths for a medium sized ladies hat, and 17 arm lengths for a gentleman’s hat.  And one full arm’s length is the exact size of your own head for an apu (headpiece).


From Ross and Moverly’s The Pitcairnese Language we learn that the old Norf’k term walewale meant not good, of poor quality (of cloth), and that the same word pronounced welewele or wolawola on Pitcairn means too loosely woven (of a basket).  This term derives from Tahitian varavara meaning thin, scattered, not close together.


The Pitkern-Norf’k word faanu, from Tahitian faniu is used to refer to the palm frond.  This term is particularly used in reference to weaving and plaiting as the leaflets of the frond are a source of plaiting and weaving material (be it coconut palm on Pitcairn; or the endemic (Rhopalostylis bauera)  or kentia (Howea forsteriana) palm on Norfolk Island).


On Pitcairn the term ‘thatch’ (or ‘palm’) is used in reference to the pandanas palm.  This hardy material was used in thatching houses, outbuildings, and public utility buildings in the past.  The last building to be thatched on Pitcairn Island was the boat shed.  ‘Thatch’ was, and still is, also used in basket-making on Pitcairn.  On Norfolk however reference to the ‘thatch palm’ is a reference to the endemic mountain palm and not pandanas.


Pitcairn Islanders also use piori in their hand-crafts, sometimes spelt piory, which is a variant of the pandanas said to have been brought to Pitcairn from Mangareva.  Interestingly however, the Pitcairn term piori is found in the Tahitian lexicon as paeore - a species of fara or pandanas, the leaves of which are used for mats, and it may be that the Pitcairners applied this term to this introduced species independently on Pitcairn from their existing lexical base.  In applying it to weaving and plaiting the piori,  which has no prickles, is stronger than palm (pandanas) but pandanas shows the colour of the dye better.


Following (as a matter of interest only) is a small but precious list of weaving and plaiting words recorded on Pitcairn Island, mostly in the 1950s, which were still being used at that time by the Pitcairners.  They clearly reflect the Islanders’ dual ancestry:-


hi’i ~ to finish off work, the act of finishing off the weaving of a basket or Panama hat which is done by bending the ends of the fibres back and working them under the previous weaving so that there are no rough ends showing around the edge.  Possible derives from Tahitian hiimoea (moea – a mat to sleep on)


biebi baasket (baby basket) ~ the smallest type of souvenir basket made by the Pitcairners


u’ini ~ a kind of basket.  From Tahitian oini – the name of a small basket.  It is not made nowadays on Pitcairn, since no-one on Pitcairn now knows how to make it.  It is known to be round, and has a handle, all in one piece from coconut leaf.


yono ~ to make designs in weaving, from Tahitian ono – to exchange one thing for another; to join one piece to another (see also hono – to splice a rope, to join pieces of wood)


hu’a ~ a strand of material used in basket-making, derives from Tahitian hua – an atom, a grain of sand, a particle, the thread of a garment.


kit – kind of basket usually made from coconut leaves.  In time ‘kit’ came to refer to any basket.  From the Oxford English Dictionary we find the term kit – a basket or box eg sewing kit.  Also a kind of basket, esp. one made of straw or rushes for holding fish.


skip -  process in basket-making by which a special design is produced, to carry out this process. 


work-basket a kind of basket with a lid


liki es’ baasket (as leaky as a basket) – on Pitcairn they also have an idiom ‘liki es’ baasket’ (as leaky as a basket) which is often said of a long-boats which leaks a great deal (like a basket).


tona – on Pitcairn this is the last thing you make when making a ni’au basket, ie the tie-off point.


While we do not hear these words or phrases in Norf’k, it is both intriguing and enticing to think about the fact that not all of our history and heritage lays dead and buried in the pages of dusty old speculative tomes about some naughty blokes who nicked a ship.  While the threads of the past which once may have held it all together following the mutiny on board HMAV Bounty can now only ever be alluded to, it is likely that at least some of these terms were brought through to Norfolk Island in 1856 when the entire community of Pitcairn Islanders re-settled here because just at a glance, a fleeting backwards glance, they do seem like pretty useful words.  And so, back to the question of our intrepid cow that went needlessly to Heaven all for the love of a succulent blade of grass.  At the end of the day, you can always get another cow (or in this case another word) but be prepared to grapple ever-after with the fact that it may never be as good as the one you lost in the first place.


Daaset f’ des wiik.  Si yorlye samor.

 

References

Plaiting in Paradise – Dianne Buffett

The Pitcairnese Language – A.S.C. Ross (1964)

A Tahitian-English Dictionary  – J.  Davies (1851)

Fut Yoli Noo bin Laane Aklen? – Anders Kallgard (1986)

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THE WARP AND THE WEFT OF LIFE ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, June 14, 2013




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NORFOLK'S PLAITING TRADITIONS ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, June 07, 2013






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NATURAL FIBRES ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, May 31, 2013







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FENUA MAITAI (Part Three) - CUSTODIANS OF THE LAND ... by Rachel Borg

Friday, May 24, 2013


Although there was a degree of fluidity about who did what, and while individual circumstances varied, traditionally the roles of men and women were very clearly defined.  Men cleared the land, dug the gardens, felled trees, built boats, and houses, fished, and looked after public affairs.  Women  raised children, cared for the elderly, kept house, wove, sewed, cooked and supported the men in gardening and rock-fishing.  Failure to be a successful worker and provider put a man to shame.  That having been said, it was no real shame to be poor.  A run of bad luck and misfortune  was quite another story; at this point the Island rallies together in support in very real and tangible ways.


Behind all of these practices lies a highly sophisticated philosophy which embraces religion, moral law, personal ethics, and common law—these have been and to a greater degree still are the primary regulators of Island life.  If a transgression occurs, there are codes of restitution which are simply sorted out quietly between families.  If for example your pig gets out and destroys someone’s elses garden, you will have fresh pork and vegetables on your doorstep until the ‘debt’ is considered paid off.   Likewise if your cattle breaks down someone elses fence, you simply make amends by fixing the fence and dropping something off at the house. 


There has always been this common law system of legal rights and responsibilities for offences which operates outside of the legislative processes.  This is an important part of the social justice system which preserves order and renders obedient, law-abiding citizens.  It is a very powerful compliance mechanism in small communities and the first laws drafted for Pitcairn Island very much reflected and formalised the social justice system which had been put into place. Those regulations also very much reflected the unique way in which the Pitcairners ordered their world.  Included in these were laws for dogs causing injury to goats.  Pigs trespassing or causing damage would become the property of the offended party.  If any person wanted to cultivate land, he was to give public notice.  If he wished to build a house he was only to cut what was sufficient to build his house.  Ownership of rock-pools was also assigned, and ownership of certain trees was designated by marking them.  All of this was geared to ensure the preservation of life, equitable distribution of resources, food security, and that ultimately everyone had fair and equal opportunity to sustain and fulfil their family’s needs.  In essence an offender’s property, food, etc could be plundered or destroyed to give compensation to the offended party but at the end of the day it was all really about values education — and good old-fashioned manners.  

    

The principle of reciprocity is also another important aspect of Island socio-economics.  For every object, or labour, given one of equal value should be returned.  In this way water wells were dug, timber cut, houses built, crops harvested, fish filleted, fences run, children raised, and families fed.  Reciprocity is a simple but fair system.  If someone allows you to take firewood from their land or run cattle, you also keep them or their aging parents in firewood, or several times a year at slaughter time you keep them in fresh meat.  Even at its very simplest level we all understand reciprocity, jars of jam, fresh fruit and vegetables, or eggs are often swapped for a regular bucket of food scraps for the neighbours chooks, a bag or oranges, or a few fillets of fresh fish.  A simple favour returned, a kind word, or a helpful deed are all important parts of the Island balance sheet, all of which advocates communal harmony, good health, and general wellbeing. 


In this way our worldly spiritual repositories and social knowledge are preserved in ‘schools of thought’ which are enshrined in our oral traditions and our way of doing things which are in turn transmitted inter-generationally and hopefully in some small way are somehow preserved and perpetuated.    


Today it is becoming increasingly clear to many Islanders that holding onto our land and physically maintaining and caring for our land in a cash-based economy presents all kinds of challenges and new dilemmas for the Island people, particularly as very few Islanders now make a living from the land; yet land remains such a crucial part of our life-mix.  The value of our land is less about its monetary value.  Its cultural value lies in the lore of maintaining life, the need for reciprocity, and the desire to look after each other and to maintain the socio-economic ‘balance’ sheet, as well as the joy of being able to give with a generosity of spirit, as the old Islanders would say ‘to give the best of your best’.    In consequence many Island families have held doggedly onto their inheritance for many generations, sometimes at great cost, pain, and sacrifice.  It is often ‘the last thing to go’.

Our land is still used in many productive and semi-subsistence ways to supplement us.  Many Island people feel threatened by change and are fearful of losing what they hold dear—it is understandable.  Our land still remains very much a cultural cornerstone of Island life; it is our security and is fundamental in ensuring our families will be nurtured and well-fed now and into the future.  We maintain a precarious balance in which we continue to strive to live between two very different worlds.


In the ‘old world’ our ancestors worked hard on the land to sustain life – there was no other choice.  In the old world the entire system was also very much overseen by a supernatural authority better than any human one; it was a system in which the old people always had bucket-loads of faith, hope, and optimism.  They were hardy, resourceful people who believed in a greater power beyond themselves Dem oel salan wud orlwes tal, Gohd nor sliipen, HHi gwen’ provaid.  En daa es gudan, lornges yus baket nort s’ boelet! (The old people would always say God is not sleeping, He will provide.  Which is well and good, as long as your bucket has no hole in it!).  Luckily our elders also taught to be thankful, positive, and resilient and to always count our blessing—a bucket which does not hold water may not make a good hat, but it can still hold fish!   

Daaset tal neks taim yorlye, tek keya.

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