Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hair cutting ceremony

Kind of like a Niue-an bar mitzvah....a rite of passage or coming of age ceremony! As it was explained to us, in the old days when neighbouring groups came by to raid your village, they killed all the men and made off with the women and children. So what the locals did was grow male children's hair really long to give them a slight advantage when trying to escape from the raiding party. When they reached a certain age they had a ceremony to cut the boy's hair and then he became a man. Of course,
attending this 'hair cutting ceremony' today, we found it was not quite as simple as that! Seems it was also a very complex bartering or banking system. Invitations had gone out and relatives of the boy, yes there still was a young boy with long hair at the center of it all, had come from as far away as New Zealand to take part in the ceremony. And everyone contributed something. We got there around 10:30 in the morning and we missed the pig sticking event. Many had brought pigs as their contribution!
And they were live when they arrived. They were slaughtered en masse and stacked in a pile with some palm leaves over them (pictures to follow). We arrived as the fish were being unloaded from the pickup trucks! And what a load of fish! Sailfish, marlin, tuna, even a moon fish! Most of them taller than me! These were duly strung up by their tails from poles suspended over the pile of pigs. Then there were countless boxes of frozen chicken parts...not sure where they came from but I guess
it was easier than plucking the hundreds of chickens that wander loose over the island! Also there were bunches of taro root, about 100 square feet of it that apparently had been grown especially for this ceremony. There was a grandstand area, with chairs decorated with the family coloured prints and someone with a microphone introducing members of the community, speeches of course. Two people sat at a table with a large ledger book and recorded the donations. At the end of the day they would
carve up all the food and distribute it back according to what had been donated. Money was also acceptable! Then a priest and a grandmother and an uncle and countless others would each take a lock of the young lad's hair, tied with a blue ribbon. It was a fascinating experience actually and while we sat on log stumps under the coconut trees, members of the family circulated with trays of juice and fresh baked goodies.
Back to the yacht club for a beer! Some groceries, laundry in the tub and showers and we are back on board and ready to fire up the barbeque. Seven boats in the bay now! Weather is fairly stable, sun and clouds, the odd shower of rain. There had been a swell coming in that caused us some discomfort as the boat never stopped rocking but that seems to have died down now.

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