The Mafulu eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Mafulu.

The men’s bands are usually small and narrow, as compared with those worn by the Roro and Mekeo people; and the women’s bands seemed to me to be generally even narrower than those of the men, particularly in front.  Men’s bands, which I have measured, were about 6 inches wide at one end, narrowing down to about 3 inches at the other; and the widths of women’s bands were 4 or 5 inches or less at one end, narrowing down to about 2 inches at the other.  But the bands of both men and women, especially those of the latter, often become so crumpled up and creased with wear that the portion passing between the legs dwindles down to about an inch or less in width.  One is tempted to think, as regards both men and women, that, from the point of view of covering, the bands might be dispensed with altogether.  This remark applies still more strongly to the case of young boys and unmarried girls, including among the latter big full-grown girls, who are in fact fully developed women, whose bands can hardly be regarded as being more than nominal, and who, especially the girls and young women, and even sometimes married women who are nursing their babies, can really only be described as being practically naked.

Plate 13 (Figs, 1, 2, and 3) illustrates the staining and decoration of perineal bands. [33] Fig. 1 is a section of a man’s band about 6 inches wide.  The transverse lines, which extend along the whole length of the band, are in alternate groups of black and red.  The background is unevenly stained yellow behind the black lines; but the background behind the red lines and the spaces intervening between the groups of lines are unstained.  Fig. 2 is the pattern near the end of a woman’s band about 5 inches wide.  The lines are coloured red.  There is no pattern on the rest of the band; but the whole of the band, including the background of the pattern, is stained yellow.  Fig. 3 is a section of a woman’s band about 2 1/2 inches wide.  The colouring is in alternate bands of red and yellow with irregular unstained spaces between.

I was struck with the gradual reduction of the women’s dress as I travelled from the coast, with its Roro inhabitants, through Mekeo, and thence by Lapeka and Ido-ido to Dilava, and on by Deva-deva to Mafulu.  The petticoats of the Roro women gave way to the shorter ones of Mekeo, and these seemed to get shorter as I went further inland.  Then at Lapeka they were still shorter.  At Ido-ido, which is Kuni, the petticoats ceased, and there was only the perineal band.  Then, again, at Dilava (still Kuni) this band was narrower, and at Deva-deva, and finally at Mafulu, it was often, as I have said, almost nominal.

I was told that the age at which a boy usually begins to wear his band is about 10 or 12, or in the case of a chief’s son 16 or 17; but that girls assume their bands at a somewhat earlier age, say at 7 or 8.  So far as my personal observation went I should have thought that the usual maximum age of nakedness for both boys and girls was rather younger, and I never saw a naked boy of an age anything like 16.

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The Mafulu from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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