Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bagaman Muster

Guy Chester arranged a full day program at Bagaman. After the "singsings" by women, children, and men and a humorous spear dance by the children, we were lulled into a sense of security. Then the bongos started drumming the spear dance beat again and 4 men wandered out of the jungle painted head to toe in carbon black with white war paint. It was clear this spear dance would be different. It wasn't as emotionally intimidating as a Maori Huka dance, but it was scary and dangerous. In the middle of a sequence of coriagraphed stalking and spear thrusting, the men broke rank and charged individuals in the audience yelling a war call, thrusting their spear in the dirt at your feet and slashing it around in the dirt and coral rubble. When I was "speared" the carbon black from the attacker's arm rubbed off on my leg as he thrust his spear into the dirt beside and behind me, slashing about at the feet of the second row behind me. I was more worried about the tropical ulcers that his organic war paint might encourage in my "dimdim" skin than getting cut by the sharp spear blade, but it all ended well with a finale of clapping and laughing.
Surprisingly, in addition to displaying and selling their carvings (spears, bowls, model canoes) inlaid with nautilus shell (beeswax as the glue), they had developed another more modern art form. The dancers and singers had all been wearing T-shirts emblazoned with 2010 Lousiades Rally, Bagaman Muster" and a picture of a sailing canoe. We assumed that guy had brought these to the locals as part of the package of gifts he unloads at every port. But it turns out they were printing the T-shirts themselves a the back of the parade grounds. For 5 Kina ($2.50 AUS), cruisers were taking off their T-shirts and having them silk-screened with professional ink and a beautiful design. It's amazing they can make a profit considering the distances and difficulty in shipping the ink, silk screen, sponge brushes, and plastic sheet required for the process.
All in all it was a fun day of interaction with the islanders and a beneficial exchange for both sides. The village got new water collection roofing material, soccer shoes for the local team, and a significant amount of hard cash. The cruisers motored away with unadulterated carved artwork, high quality T-shirts, and a greater appreciation for the industriousness of the local islanders as well as their violent cannibalistic history.

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