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University of Pittsburgh- Of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education

Stone-Faced Ancestors: The Spatial Anchoring of Myth in Wamira, Papua New Guinea Author(s): Miriam Kahn Source: Ethnology, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan., 1990), pp. 51-66 Published by: University of Pittsburgh- Of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education Stable URL: . Accessed: 23/01/2011 06:44
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Miriam Kahn of Washington

A village of about 450 inhabitants, Wamira lies on the northeast of coast in Papua New Guinea.1 Milne behind the hamlets, Bay Province Immediately which a stony are scattered under trees along a grassy extends beach, plain to the base of the mountains that begin their ascent a few kilometers inland. About two kilometers to the west of Wamira, on top of a lofty perched is Dogura, of the Anglican in Papua the headquarters Mission New plateau, Guinea. in 1976, I noticed On my first walk through several Wamira, arrangements all various of stones, shades of gray, some small and round, others large flat in circles, some and others Some of slabs, composed standing individually. were located on the pebbly surface of the arrangements prominently hamlets. Others were shrouded and bushes in areas swept neatly by trees that used to be hamlets but were since with vegetation. None of overgrown them to be natural nor did seemed seem to be placed occurences, they Each time I walked would them past these arbitrarily. stones, people point out to me and tell their stories. were said to be sitting Some stones circles where elders sat in the olden Some were reminders of important days. events. Some were said to be specific ancestors or ancestresses. mythological And some were even known to walk around! In Melanesian events are often articulated with societies, mythological in the Various of a places landscape. aspects people's past are perceived, in terms of geographical and experienced features. These recorded, spatially visible forms be hills, mountains, tangible, may rivers, lakes, or other features in the landscape. Often like those Stones they are stones just mentioned. that have mythical are said to be the of ancestral paraphernalia significance or heroines?or heroes the ancestors or ancestresses themselves?that have In noting turned to stone. this influence of the "enlivening myth upon Malinowski said: landscape," (1922:330) the The mythical world receives its substance in rock and hill, in the changes in land and sea. The pierced sea-passages, the cleft boulders, the petrified human beings, all these bring the On the other hand, mythological world close to the natives, make it tangible and permanent. the story thus powerfully illustrated, re-acts on the landscape, fills it with dramatic happenings, which, fixed there forever, give it a definite meaning. I examine this humanized, and immortalized in Wamira petrified, landscape order to gain into concerns that are insights larger epistemological in Melanesia. to the whole of rural village societies For example, applicable of the cultural use of place an understanding and landscape sheds on light in 51

52 the


are recorded and rendered the process past events permanent, by which in which evidence is and truth is established and how empirical known, way of time and temporal and expressed concepts are, in part, perceived continuity in terms of place. It is these concerns that I address here. to recognized, anchored and named in the The past is often forms tangible, In are able to the sacred, landscape. rendering people geography reap in their contemporary harvest of the historical lives. landscape Geographical are instrumental as sources features of living tradition that inform, modify, and are modified relations. such physical markers of by ongoing Moreover, the past may serve as mnemonic deviees for individuals and groups, thus to establish their These landmarks then helping (Harwood identity 1976). have mark the ancestral two functions; and serve as a they itinerary, they memorial. physical in the eyes Such a physically of the inhabitants of the represented past, also bears to truth. of physical landscape, testimony Possessing knowledge forms tantamount to possessing becomes of the events those forms knowledge These immortalized details of facts, the accuracy of symbolize. places become which is necessary to give credence to events. actions are recorded in terms of space. and recalled Whereas Furthermore, of the Western world emphasize between people temporal relationships events, to emphasize Melanesians Events are anchored to appear spatial relationships. and the relationship between them is seen as linked in places physical points It is the physical its tangibility as we shall its space. place, and, see, which the past to the present and provide a sense of join negotiability, and identity. history, continuity, have long been interested in peoples' Although anthropologists pasts and in how those view their it has only been more that people past, recently attention has turned to the interpretation of that history in terms of how of the past illuminate the people about who retell the concepts knowledge events and Schieffelin Carrier (Gewertz 1985; 1987). tended to present a somewhat Formerly, anthropologists generally simplified and static view of the concept of time in other cultures, even that denying the "other" exists in the same time as ours (Fabian For example, 1983). Evans-Pritchard drew a distinction between historical time and (1939) that the Nuer had no sense of the passage of time mythological time, claiming for the category he called As he (Evans-Pritchard mythological. 1939:215) tradition lies the horizon of myth which is always stated, seen in the "Beyond same time One event did not precede perspective. another mythological event." Gellner drew a distinction between mythological two time (1964) and perspectives: In the episodic (or eternal); temporal (or durational). life is analyzed as being lived on a "horizontal former, plane," relatively unconnected with in the past. The as directly anything past is not seen for the present, nor the present as in any way predictive responsible of the future. As Leach has said about episodic "in such a scheme (1961:126) time, the past has no 'depth' to it, all past is equally it is simply the past; of now." A temporal time framework, on the other hand, opposite is akin to that held by Westerners. Melanesianists have been influenced ideas and have greatly by Gellner's them to their analyses of concepts of time in Melanesia. applied Based on of oral narratives, subscribed to the view analyses they have often that the




have "no historical "little people tradition," indigenous chronological and an "absence of the idea of time depth" (Lawrence perspective," 1964:32-3). It has even been said that "there is a series of beings, but no becoming... there is no temporal connection between is there a temporal neither objects... connection made... between events" Melanesian has (Lee 1950:91). mythology been ascribed to an episodic time frame (Errington 1974; Lawrence 1964). McDowell has argued that for the people of Bun, in the Sepik (1985) region of Papua New Guinea, the dominant mode of perceiving the past is episodic. More have to counter the approach that recently, begun anthropologists societies "no historicity, as having or that historical are presents processes or epiphenomenal to the real business of structural unimportant arrangements" and Schieffelin Native accounts of the past are now viewed (Gewertz 1985:2). as validation of the others' the past; i.e., as data. It has way of viewing been noted that such as temporal naturalistic of canons concepts linearity, or material Carrier for evidence, may not be universal. causality (1987:115), states that "stories need to be seen... as edited, accounts example, ideological that tell us more about the people the telling than they do about the doing events retold." In this vein, of viewing a people's of their conception past as data that inform us about their historical let us turn to the people of consciousness, Wamira and try to understand their what vibrant and visible sense of their let us look at as seemingly an past tells us. Specifically, gray and colorless of their past as stones, memorials to history that anthropologists have aspect noticed but to which I suggest attention. that they have paid little analytical lack of concern with stones as significant data is, in part, anthropologists' because from come literate societies and are trained in a anthropologists that as the communicative vehicle of culture discipline acknowledges language have focused on what they, in their Western par excellence. They primarily would as mythology--namely, oral accounts of events tradition, acknowledge in linked Other than time. it the briefest chronologically granting mention, seem to neglect the over which stumble while they ground very they ancestral a For more of a richer, recording myths. dynamic understanding Melanesian sense of mythology, and for one more in keeping with the recent focus on historical consciousness an as of a people's aspect culture, must look not only at oral accounts of origin which anthropologists myths, are limited to particular but also at the way in which these literary genres, are recorded and recalled such as physical in forms myths by other devices, the landscape. while not the only type of physical Stones, marker, provide and interesting of the Melanesian attachment to place and pertinent examples the recording of myth and history in terms of space.2 ANCESTRAL All across STONES IN MELANESIA

landscape, important and New Leenhardt

are traces of peoples' in the recorded Melanesia, mythology in stone of historically Evidence especially (Riesenfeld 1950). stones exists as far east as Vanuatu (Rodman 1985; Rubinstein 1981) Caledonia In New Leenhardt 1930). (Clifford 1982; Caledonia, notes that (1930:241)



each stone has a name, a history, a life, we might even say a personality, resulting from the Often in [remote] valleys I've asked the name for every detail of spirit enclosed within it. the land, each notable tree; and the landscape transposes itself into a scheme it would be impossible to transcribe on a map, in which each name is title to a chapter. Further the use of stones as powerful historical west, in Papua New Guinea, in regions has been observed as physically diverse as the North markers Solomons Province Morobe personal (Blackwood 1935; Spriggs communication), Province Province the (Schmitz 1960:153-63), Madang (Lutkehaus 1982), Western Province and the Western Province 1979), Highlands (Strathern (Ayres Laba personal personal communication; communication). In Milne stone with Bay Province, arrangements mythological significance common Munn are particularly (Malinowski 1922; 1986; 1971:22-4, Young In the Trobriand that the inhabitants Islands, 1983a). megaliths say were erected researchers for decades people" puzzled by "long-ago (Papuan Villager In writing about the Trobriands, Malinowski noted 1936:49-51). (1922:298) A stone hurled by one of the heroes into the sea after an escaping canoe; a sea passage broken between two islands by a magical canoe; here two people turned into rock; there a petrified waga [canoe]--all this makes the landscape represent a continuous story or else the culminating dramatic incident of a familiar legend. and In mythical times, human beings come out of the ground, they change into animals, and these become people again; men and women rejuvenate and slough their skins; flying canoes speed through the air, and things are transformed into stone (Malinowski 1922:302). On the coastal mainland of Milne the area with which I am Bay Province, most stone exist all along the northeast coast from familiar, arrangements Boianai to East and around the bay to Wagawaga Cape (Papuan Villager Of the ancient on the stones northeast 1930:3; Seligmann 1910). coast, Newton relates the following: (1914:170-1) We were shown various things that had virtues, stones... that had an influence on the life and health and prosperity of the people... In all the villages there are stones which are reverenced, and which may not be moved... There are others, short stunted obelisks stuck in the ground with rude markings. All these are really tabu; they may not be interfered with or trouble will follow. Whence they came no one knows, they were here in the time of our ancestors, they remain forever... Of the places I visited on the northeast Boianai is the village with coast, the most fascinating stone memorials to its past. One cannot walk more than a few without an important stone paces or group of stones. encountering Several of the village's stones are deeply incised with geometric the designs, of which are not known meanings Each stone has by the inhabitants today3. a connection with Boianai's unwritten the past. Usually represent they of a mythical hero or heroine paraphernalia who turned into stone. One such is the myth of Wakeke, a totemic example snake whose house foundation

STONE-FACED in remains stone bowl;



In the middle in the village. of the foundation stone is a small to have cooked Wakeke is believed the pot in which his food. a prominent in the stones role (as stones) themselves Occasionally, played the following For example, the mythological narrative. why the myth explains In the myth, of Boianai to the cassowary. are related some stones are people boiled into and others are hurled at the fleeing The broth cassowary. record of these facts lies strewn over the landscape. The oral contemporary is as follows: account

Long ago, a young woman lived with her husband and child. Every day her husband went to the garden, but returned without any food. Being hungry, the woman boiled stones. She and her child drank the broth from the cooked stones. One day, angered by her husband's She constructed wings for behavior, she decided to turn herself into a cassowary and leave. herself from coconut fronds, knee caps from coconut husks, and legs from black palm sticks. That day, when her husband returned, she spread her wings and fled. In an attempt to call his wife back, he tempestuously hurled stones after her. But she escaped and now lives as a cassowary in the mountains behind Boianai. one can still see the stones in the village. There is a massive Today, pile that is said to have accumulated a full meter as the hungry stones, high, each day, boiled them aside. them and tossed The boulders that her woman, threw after husband her lie scattered the path that leads from the along towards the mountains. village In Wamira, some 30 kilometers further east along the coast, mythologically while less numerous than in Boianai, in are viewed stones, significant slightly an equally As in Boianai, these stones anchor important light. mythological narratives to the land. Some serve the additional of being charters purpose for proper in one myth social behavior. For example, two women, named Maradiudiva and Marakwadiveta, to stones; turned the stones' presence today reminds Wamirans about the proper for sharing food. As the myth etiquette each time Maradiudiva went down to the sea to fetch salt water, her relates, she lived, with whom sister, Marakwadiveta, up all the food and later gobbled fabricated lies about relatives who had come and eaten it. and hurt, Hungry Maradiudiva walked into the sea and turned into stone. with her stony Now, in the bay. she stands all alone As the tide rolls in and out, countenance, the Wamirans Maradiudiva and descending; a steady reminder perceive rising to all that on social the of Her food. hinges living sharing sister, also turned to stone and today is perched on the hillside Marakwadiveta, the sea from where her sister rises and descends. overlooking is Tauribariba. far the most remarkable and spirited stone in Wamira It By I base much is to his tale that I now turn in greater detail and upon which in space and recalled, of my later of how is anchored and analysis myth in the altered, present. of TAURIBARIBA, FROM THE STONE THAT THE CATHEDRAL WANDERED

a Wamiran turned into stone when Wamira was first ancestor, Tauribariba, In 1936, missionaries founded. removed his stone form from the village and him into cemented the pulpit wall of the cathedral at the nearby mission

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The narrative of illustrates the Wamirans' mode of Dogura. and relating to their past in an oral fashion, as well as recording, describing, oral narrative to physical the way in which places and landmarks. they anchor their of how sense as a culture It also illustrates on identity hinges so to outsiders as a stone. This inconsequential something seemingly is an abridged of that narrated account version to me in 1976 by particular of the Maibouni a member to which Osborne the myth Kaimou, lineage it describes Believed to be a true story, the original of belongs. settling Wamira and the establishment of the relationship between by various lineages these an account as well as providing of their ancestral lineages, leader, Tauribariba. The members of the different Long, long ago our ancestors inhabited many distant places. lineages, such as Aurana and Maibouni, journeyed forth from these places with their leaders. The Aurana lineage settled at Boeka (see Figure l). The Maibouni lineage, with its leader, and his first went to Then they moved to Tauribariba, sister, Tauanana, Lamogara. Kwakwairo. settled at Iveive. Tauribariba and his sister went ashore and They finally There, lit a fire. The Aurana lineage had already settled near Iveive at Boeka. But they did not know how to make fire. After both lineages had settled, the Aurana people said to one of their little boys, "Go to the Maibouni people and ask for fire." The boy went to Tauribariba and Tauanana and said, "Oh, elder brothers, give us fire" and the Maibouni people gave him fire. The boy returned to his people and related what he had said. When the Aurana people heard that the boy called the Maibouni people "elder brothers" they were upset. They, in fact, had settled first and thought they should be called "elder brothers." They sent the boy back to the Maibouni people to correct his mistake, but it was too late. The Maibouni people said, "You already called us 'elder brothers' and thus it will be. We already gave you fire." From then on the Maibouni people were considered elder brothers of the Aurana people. Later both lineages moved to Irere and Imara. When they arrived they looked around and noticed that their leader, Tauribariba, was not with them. Someone explained, "Tauribariba is still at Iveive." They paddled a canoe to Iveive where Tauribariba and his sister climbed into it. They paddled back past Kwarara. At Araravuna, where the spring water comes out at the beach, they pulled ashore. they tried to land, waves thrashed at their canoe and Tauanana fell into the sea. Everyone rushed to get Tauribariba and carry him ashore. They set him in the center of the hamlet of Irere where he still is today. He lives there and walks around at night. He watches over all the taro gardens. One sees traces of smoke curling up in the air wherever he goes because he can make fire without using anything to light it. But, look, today he is not there! Several years ago my mother's Mr. Bodger from the mission station. Mr. Bodger said, "My these stones?" My mother's brother answered, "Yes, I am." Mr. stone so I can cement it in the cathedral wall." My mother's right." brother was approached by friend, are you the chief of Bodger said, "Give us that brother responded, "Oh, all As

STONE-FACED Figure 1: Map of the Original Settling



Kaimou finished the story to me he wistfully Osborne narrating did he not took Tauribariba MWhen Father Bodger just take a stone. added, and spirit of the Wamiran He took the entire identity people." Before fifteen centimeters about is a small stone, Tauribariba being long. about of stones, in the cathedral wall, he formed part of a large circle placed of Irere. in the center seaside hamlet in diameter, of the Wamiran five meters in diameter. is a sizable about half a meter His sister, boulder, Tauanana, numerous of the circle, surrounded She sits in the middle by their "children;" in than six or seven centimeters most of which are no more small stones, All of them are believed and to have the ability to walk around, diameter. is at night. Wamirans that favorite time for this their activity say at the shore, surfaced from the sea new children appear having occasionally in this manner to the circle at night. When children appear they are added in number. of stones, is thus continually which fluctuating and St. Paul was completed at In 1936, of St. Peter when the Cathedral into the pulpit to cement Tauribariba decided John Father Bodger Dogura, the transference as symbolizing wall. This move was seen by the missionaries From a report in the that to of God. of the Wamirans' of stone" "worship of the stone I about the the transportation quote following Anglican records, When


ETHNOLOGY The difference between Wamirans' and in to Wamirans' the stone place willingness missionaries' the cathedral

to the cathedral. the accounts about is striking.

Two native men from the villages of Wedau and Wamira... came up to the Sanctuary, each bearing a large piece of stone or rock in his hands, and presented them to the priest, who took them, blessed them, and offered them at the Altar. One of the stones was a curiously striped slab of rock resembling nothing so much as a slice of chocolate cake with layers of icing. These two stones were treasured memorials of the old heathen days, one belonging to a special family in Wedau and the other, the striped one, to Wamira. Their present owners or guardians, being Christians, had voluntarily removed them from their places and brought them to God's House. They are set in the walls of the new Cathedral together with stones sent from Abbeys and Cathedrals in England, there to be silent witnesses to the Faith which has proclaimed that God alone is Giver of all good things. The Wamiran stone is known by the name of veneration to its owners of many generations, who depended the prosperity of their gardens and good inherited the care of the stone are all Christians resting place. It is safely embedded in concrete and its Tauribariba... It has been an object of believed that on its presence in the village and plentiful food crops. Those who have and have brought Tauribariba also to his wandering days are over. become living stones in the House of

Even so have the children of darkness and superstition God's building--His Church (Anglican Archives 1936). The above

account from the mission fails to relate the records, however, in spite of the fact that the mission was cognizant of it. event, As Wamirans that night, after Tauribariba had been put in the claimed, he walked back to Wamira to join his fellow stones.6 The following cathedral, fetched the stone from Wamira. This time, he cemented day Father it Bodger into the wall upside down with Tauribariba's face turned towards the wall. to government the stone was "turned down as a According records, upside that the magic had been emptied out of it, and that it was now fitted symbol to occupy a place in the Christian Church" (Papuan Annual Reports 1936/37:5). Ever down and shackled Tauribariba since, upside has remained by cement, and faithfully within the pulpit wall. firmly The over altering Tauribariba's ideological tug-of-war location, however, was not The he was waves yet resolved. of day permanently removed, discontent Wamira. oral to as a rippled result of through According tradition, his disappearance his grief-stricken "walked back into the sister, Tauanana, sea with many of their children." Wamirans say that it was not until August 1974 that Tauanana surfaced from her maritime at which time she hideaway, on the beach. When the people of Irere recognized appeared silently her they her ashore and placed her in the circle helped of stones immediately "where she belonged." Over the next several the children also wandered months, up from the sea.7 In May 1975, two Melanesian students from the History of the Department of New Guinea visited Wamira to view Papua the stones. University One student noted in Irere that the "female stone could history not be found but is regarded as still being at the site of the stones when not moving around" following numerous




It is interesting to note that the student, who had come to 1975).8 (Loeliger with examine the sacred ended his report the following comment: stones, back along the beach towards "From here we walked to the monument Wedau, the cement of the first commemorating landing Anglican [a shrine] in 1891" (Loeliger did he realize, missionaries Little that 1975). perhaps, and Tauanana were also such physical Tauribariba monuments. Nor did he in durable need to record realize that the Melanesians' events significant was in a fact that to warrant a picture thought enough (a interesting ways and an educational for not textbook was that outing university students) different from the missionaries' need to erect monuments. what all this--an ancestral brother and sister who let us explore Now, their determined and turned into stone, and spirited the mobility, struggle between and missionaries over the placement of one of the stones? villagers does it tell us about tells us about the Wamirans. what how Specifically, how they rewrite it as the need and how arises, they objectify mythology, the passage of time? they represent PLACE We AS RECORD OF THE PAST AND VALIDATION OF FACT

have seen that significant events of the past are anchored to physical in the landscape. This anchoring occurs when ancestral move figures in it. or settle the Each of landscape spot past through geographical and marked form. These is named importance forms?stones, by a physical in the landmarks and etc?become of experience sentiment lakes, hills, For example, the Maibouni did not articulation of ancestral people journeys. to Lamogara, settle at Irere, but first travelled then to Kwakwairo, directly then to Iveive, and only later (by way of Kwarara and Araravuna) to Irere. of each a narrator The accurate is necessary when a relates place naming if As seen with the Tauribariba the narrative is best visualized myth. myth, the sinuous from place to place. accompanied by a map to indicate progression landmarks that were left behind represent personal paraphernalia Occasionally, on journeys and were then transformed into stone. For example, places where an ancestor came sat down, set down a garden ate ashore, basket, betel nut, took off a layer of shredded-leaf some food, chewed and so skirt, marked. Items such as garden lime pots, and on, become baskets, permanently turn into stone and remain visible for all to see shredded-leaf skirts today in evoking, and utilize to, and often "proving" relating history. in providing the past is important a group and recalling with a Recording In Melanesia, sense of collective shared plots are often identity. mythological areas. Each over wide is not. uses however, Terrain, village geographical in the landscape to make the myth its own. local landscape Specific points visual reminders of the mythical are not only characters and their actions, of the of become details which validates the but accuracy knowledge, the For of narrator's while and group's ownership example, recording story. I was told on several that a version narrated occasions by someone myths, in the circuitous of place inaccurate was totally else because, progression told that individuals was wrong. one of the names Or, I was often names, because the identical to one another related discovered they knew they were narratives.9 of place names in mythological details places



is used not only to give to one's of facts authority Physical anchoring For example, when having to account for but also to prove truth. knowledge, I stood when an action, a Melanesian next to the say, "Yesterday might I saw so-and-so a creek, to her garden." tree at such-and-such mango going in the environment, their words for themselves By thus anchoring they verify who This manner of lending credence those hear. to one's actions and statements is extremely when such heated as sorcery important topics accusations or insinuations of food theft are disputed. From a Melanesian once the words are voiced aloud and anchored to a perspective, geographically place they take on a literal and credible quality. This in belief is widespread Melanesia. Of the Trobriand Islands, Malinowski said, "it must be noted also that the mythically (1922:330) changed in the native's features of the landscape bear testimony mind to the truth of the myth." And of Normanby Island in Milne Thune Bay Province, (1981:10) want to demonstrate the truth of such a story... says, "If people they usually to features of the landscape which were in the altered or created point course of the in On Rubinstein development." Malo, story's Vanuatu, finds that "telling where one was when was alleged to (1981:153) something validate the truthfulness and of in the events happen helps objectivity question." We may turn to the Tauribariba to examine the process myth by which events become anchored to physical The critical in which moment objects. Tauribariba was transformed from human to stone occurred after the being waves thrashed the canoe and Tauanana fell into the sea. The against took place when rescued Tauribariba and lifted him to metamorphosis people shore. rushed to Tauribariba and him ashore. "Everyone get carry (pawei) him in the center set (tonei) of the hamlet where he still is today." They The word means to carry onto a pawei by strapping pole. Pigs or heavy loads in the days of cannibalism) also people, are transported in this (and The word tonei means to stab, pierce, or spear. In recalling their past, way. Wamirans Tauribariba as sitting in the canoe as a person, perceive as being from in an inhuman the shore and as being transported and way, put down into the ground like a stone. in the process of being carried jabbed Thus, onto land and being set down, Tauribariba is transformed from human lineage leader to stony ancestor and permanent marker of the group's and history The Maibouni thus immortalized the events of their identity. people in spatial settlement context and physical form.10 the arrival Interestingly, of the Maibouni as a group is not yet immortalized when people they come ashore as individuals. record the event when They only they collectively fetch their leader, the symbol of their group, and carry him onto land. In Wamira, the sea is often endowed with the sacred character of creator, or recycler of life. In many instances transformer, in a immortalizer, where, a person turns to stone, such as with Maradiudiva and Marakwadiveta myth, or Tauribariba and Tauanana, the transformation takes place as the individual or wanders The sea also plays an important from, emerges into, the sea. role transitional of growth and decay. For example, the umbilical phases during cord of a newborn the cutting of which indicates the beginning infant, of an individual's is ritually tossed out to sea. independent who growth, People in contact come with a dead body must wash in the sea to cleanse what they view as contamination with and death. After a corpse is buried, decay




into the of the deceased throw stones that relatives this sea, explaining the departure action is meant to parallel of the deceased's the across spirit the pungent sea. of Moreover, salty odor of the sea is taboo for the growth taro plants. This sea odor is likened to that of menstrual pungent blood, to be the ultimate of human believed creative substance the sea is life. Thus, with of transition endowed sacred from fetus to qualities phases during life to death, from and from death to afterlife. The passage of time infant, in its most and visible is marked itself, form, naturally occurring by such in people, transitions of growth and decay and plants. animals, Symbolic markers to the sea in Wamiran of growth and decay are all brought back In this light, it is not surprising that the transformation and action. thought of human into stone (i.e., the immortalization or their paraphernalia of beings that which the transference is mortal, of life from one form to another, or the embodiment of time) also takes place in the sea. of the passage THE PASSAGE OF TIME AS MOVEMENT IN SPACE

Like of the past, Melanesian the passage notions ideas about of time are the most conceived of in a spatial framework. Perhaps meaningful way to understand the Melanesian use of spatial to the of express metaphors passage time is to compare their conceptual to a Western one. framework in recording and recalling their the Westerners, past, emphasize mainly Western between events. is and temporal relationship punctuated history recorded linked and causally related dates of discoveries, by chronologically in and the battles, treaties, revolutions, leadership, changes points, turning link like. exactness is To an event to an important. Chronological extremely it inaccurate date renders the account ceases to be fact. the false; Indeed, in which of events the the and the future influence past shape present way In general, the backbone of Western historical Westerners provides analysis. locate their sense of the past in time. events are verified Likewise, primarily to time. For example, an individual of a crime can suspected by reference innocent that he saw so-and-so at 8:15, but not by saying plead by saying that he saw so-and-so when he stood next In sum, to the mango tree. a Western of the past is primarily and progressive, concept linear, cumulative, in a temporal of events linked and causally connected manner. consisting Even of a fixed as a fairy tales, devoid temporal setting, employ temporality mode of producing with "once upon a time" credibility. They usually begin and end with "and they lived ever thus them after," rendering happily believable them in time (Harwood by locating 1976:791). In Melanesia, on the other where the past is primarily marked hand, by on the ground, the passage of time is seen in terms of linked points objects in space. is anchored The intellectual is on how an event to a emphasis in in form "Life... is and visible the landscape. perceived, physical theory, to be a progression of significant punctuated stops" (Rubinstein by a series as a "sequence for example, are construed of 1981:155). Autobiographies, in social This movements as well as physical space" (Young 1983b:495). school student's a Wamiran illustrated is wonderfully high concept by been the of me and the content of my work. Having perception given in her village" for her high of interviewing "an important person assignment school newspaper, she chose me and wrote:



The first place she stopped was Tahiti. After that she went to American Samoa then to Western Samoa and then on to Fiji, from Fiji to the New Hebrides [now Vanuatu] and then to From there she took a plane to Port Moresby and then took a boat and Sydney, Australia. came all the way to Dogura... While she is here, she has to talk to the people and learn the names of the places. She also has to make a map of the whole village and write its history... (Giurina 1976:4). of the importance of spatial orientation in the occurs example form of greeting. As individuals cross paths with one another, Where are you coming from?" ask, "Where are you going?... they customarily "I'm coming from place X, Or, they greet those they encounter by reporting, I'm on my way to place Y." It is the spatial that defines relationship people and events, and links and in doing so gives a sense of past and present, and identity. continuity Another Melanesian THE "But," MALLEABLE NATURE OF MYTHIC "WORDS"

Westerner who hears the tales of Tauribariba and the every stones "the stones don't do they?" The exclaims, wandering move, really answer of Melanesia where stones is, "yes, they do." In almost every region are markers of past are also described as of events, they being capable For example, movement. Strathern discusses the "itinerant (1979:50) quality" of the stones in the Western of Papua New Guinea. Near Buka, in Highlands the Solomon stones are known not only to walk about at night, but Islands, to fish, swim, and even grow (Blackwood In the North Solomon dance, 1935). Islands' of Arawa, one man, in order to demonstrate his disbelief in village the power of stones, heaved several ancestral stones over a cliff. When they the next his skepticism reappeared morning, disappeared (Spriggs personal communication). an even more accurate than "yes, the stones move" would Perhaps response be to say that the stones are helped in their movements. When Wamira was first settled, the people found a stone on the beach and placed it on probably the ground to commemorate their successful or even returned to landing, Iveive to fetch the stone. we can assume that appropriate Likewise, Tauribariba was assisted his nighttime to during jaunt back from the cathedral the village. And Wamirans stones readily say that when they see the children on the beach, they put them where they belong.11 In examining the fact of the stones' concern should be focused movements, less on how the stones move and more on why it is necessary that they or be moved, at all. The answer, I suggest, move, has to do with mythology and to revision. It also being has to do with negotiable subject the difference between literate and nonliterate societies' of ways recording events. After the past, one must occasionally amend and alter it in recording order to live with it in the present. Literate which record their societies, in books, can rewrite their past primarily books. can ban them or They revise them. Even their concrete or metal monuments can be altered, torn down, blown defaced, rebuilt, Nonliterate up, or quietly ignored. people who record their in stone, must their past stones some however, grant freedom of movement. The Wamiran is not past, like everyone else's, static, but represents a dynamic, between and the ongoing relationship past events




in stone can most be changed that are recorded Events easily by present. A past recorded that and illustrated of the stones. the movement by stones in the night, from cathedral the sea, wander walk up from walls, disappear and is dynamically and for so on, from bound boats Australia, jump a stone can mark Because to alterations and additions. receptive dramatically time, like time, it can move. of the passage of time, how they conceive the world over, no matter People in relatively whether these be events mark forms, permanent important or ordinary-looking stones. cement bronze statues, plaques, columns, engraved to A superb efforts and symbols cultures combined of how various example in 1978 when of Maurice the centennial event occurred record a significant Leenhardt's birth was celebrated in New Caledonia.

On the stele the Leenhardt's monument is a white cement column about seven feet high... An engraved has been modeled in bronze by a noted Paris artist. missionary's profile... At the narrow summit of the plaque has been supplied by the powerful mining conglomerate... monument the local committee [of Melanesians] has placed an ordinary-looking smooth stone (Clifford 1982:226). In its accounts who on the speeches, the dwelled the press of the centennial, "the stone was and the monument. However, attended, to is unfortunate This because, quote 1982:226). (Clifford biographer,

dignitaries ignored" Leenhardt's

Rocks are forms of local history, mythic "words." Traditionally, the spirit of an ancestor could The stone atop be seized and solidified in the form of a rock gathered from a riverbed. Leenhardt's monument is taken from a stream in the home valley of one of the missionary's It solidifies, gathers, symbolizes the presence of the ancestors, of original pastoral students. the Melanesians who made his work possible. It gathers the landscape's and of Leenhardt, out stake the past. Rocks are crucial in New Caledonia... habitat, They providing permanent markers around and over which flow the ongoing currents of social, historical, and natural life (Clifford 1982:226-7). the at Leenhart's that stone reporters neglected way on have an essential the whole, neglected anthropologists, in their analyses of of Melanesian By focusing analyses mythology. ingredient or by assuming that notions of on oral narratives, local mythology primarily in terms have restricted their of temporality, the past are expressed they A much more versatile and of the people. richer, deeper, understanding as Melanesians if anthropologists also vibrant attend, past might emerge in front of them on the ground. themselves do, to what is physically the same NOTES 1. The fieldwork upon which this paper is based was conducted in Papua New Guinea from The major June 1976 to March 1978 and from August 1981 to March 1982 (Kahn 1986). portion of time was spent in the village of Wamira on the northeast coast of the mainland in Milne Bay Province. Short-term comparative work was conducted in Boianai, also on the The research trips were 1981. northeast coast, in February 1978 and November-December made financially possible by generous support from the National Science Foundation, the In




National Institute of Mental Health, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the Institute for Intercultural Studies. I am grateful to the officers of the Anglican Church in Papua New Guinea who kindly granted me access to their archives in Port Moresby. This article, first presented at an ethnohistory session at the meetings of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania in March 1983, has benefitted greatly from the ideas of Steven Robert L. Albert, Robert Borofsky, Deborah Gewertz, Jane Goodale, Alice Pomponio, Matthew and Richard For with in fieldwork Rubinstein, Spriggs, Taylor. my help Boianai, I am to and both their families. Most of all, I Biddy Gugara, Slayman Dodoama, deeply grateful thank my many friends in Wamira who patiently and magnanimously helped me with my work. I My deepest gratitude goes to Alice Dobunaba, Aidan Gadiona, and the late Sybil Gisewa. alone accept responsibility for any errors in facts or interpretation. 2. It must be noted that this desire for concrete expression of events as a way of recalling the past, substantiating knowledge, and creating a sense of identity is not unique to Melanesians. To name only a few examples among many, Christians point to the blood-stained cloth in the Cathedral of Orvieto to recall the miracle demonstrating the transubstantiation of wine into Christ's blood during the Communion. Or they cite the Holy Shroud of Turin in the Cathedral of San Giovanni (albeit recently proclaimed a fake) to demonstrate the existence of Christ. American families, especially those with children to whom to pass on historical knowledge and cultural traditions, make frequent journeys to historical markers. Although most are man-made, many, such as Plymouth Rock, occur naturally. 3. Incised stones have also been found in other regions of Melanesia. In most cases the local inhabitants can no longer interpret the designs (Blackwood 1935). 4. The importance of the sibling relationship in Pacific origin myths has been discussed elsewhere (see, for example, Marshall 1981). 5. Note that the placement of the stone in the cathedral is a fine example of a Westerner's desire to record a historical event in a physical, durable and symbolic manner. 6. There are several versions of this event. According to Father Bodger, the stone had not yet been cemented into the wall, but was lying on a table in the cathedral (Bodger personal According to a Wamiran version, it had been cemented into the wall with its communication). face looking out towards Wamira. As my informant said, "It saw the village and was drawn back to its home." Yet another, more embellished, Wamiran version claims that the stone was carried to England and Australia. When it arrived in Australia, it jumped from the side of the boat and swam back to Wamira because "that is where it belonged." 7. I was given no explanation for her surfacing at that time, 38 years after her disappearance into the sea. 8. When I first arrived in Wamira in 1976, she was again present in the oval of stones. I saw her there in 1981 as well. 9. The idea that sharing mythological knowledge demonstrates proof of past relationship, of course, works best when narratives are unwritten and privately owned. 10. Here we are again reminded of the missionaries who came ashore and later erected a cement monument at the spot where they first arrived. 11. The movement may also take the form of an upright stone "falling down." For example, in one Wamiran hamlet there exists a group of stones called Aritabu. These stones commemorate a lineage's collective action in the past and still symbolize its feelings of cohesion in the Several years ago, one of the Aritabu stones "fell down because the members of the present. lineage were not working together harmoniously" (i.e., sorcery among the members threatened the cohesion of the group). I was told that if the lineage members "work together the stone will prop itself up once again." Upon further inquiry, I realized that the erection of the stone would, in fact, be accomplished by lineage men pouring pork broth into the ground below the stone while raising it into its place. Thus, the broth would physically soften the ground for

STONE-FACED the stone's upraising while communal feasting on pork. simultaneously and symbolically

ANCESTORS group unity

65 through


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