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In the market of Suva, Fiji, a vendor in front of lenghts of Pandanus leaves.
Over the next few years, the People and Plants Initiative will be developing activities in Melanesia and Polynesia with Barry Evans and other colleagues from the WWF South Pacific Program, based in Suva, Fiji. During an initial visit in November and December, I had the opportunity to capture and borrow the following images of plant use in the region./GJM
Leaves, found dried and bundled in the markets of the South Pacific, belong to a species of Pandanus (Pandanaceae). There are about 600 species of Pandanus in the Old World tropics, many of them local endemics. In the South Pacific, pandanus leaves are the basic material for almost all weaving. Diverse varieties and treatments yield different textures and colors, including white straw, off-white, yellow and reddish-brown.
Kukuvalu is a type of pandanus which turns deep brown when dried. Mats may bronze through age, or by being dyed or smoked over a fire.Simple designs are woven with black pandanus, which is dyed by soaking white leaves for a few days in swamp mud then boiling them in a liquid beaten from the husk of green coconut or pressed from the leaves and bark of various trees. Ethnobotanical information from James, K.E. 1988. Making Mats and Barkcloth in the Kingdom of Tonga, a pamphlet published by the author and distributed by the Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific. Contact: Linda Crowl, Publications Fellow, Institute of Pacific Studies,University of the South Pacific, P.O. Box 1168, Suva, Fiji; Tel. +679.212248, Fax +679.301594, e-mail crowl_l@usp.ac.fj
Textures, from a basket woven by Maori people of New Zealand using leaves of Phormium tenax Forster & Forster f. (Agavaceae). Called bush flax in English and harakeke in Maori, this plant is endemic to wetlands of New Zealand. The leaves were the principal fiber used by the Maori for all textiles, nets, baskets and many other utilitarian objects. The stripped leaves produce a strong, silky fiber, called muka, which is used for cloaks and other pieces of clothing.
There are many cultivars grown as ornamentals, including one with reddish leaves; the cultivars are named by the Maori and used for distinct purposes. The basket (called a kete in Maori) that forms the background of the Viewpoints section was woven by Jocelyn Hartstone, member of a New Zealand Maori weaver’s group. The Maori people will be hosting the 6th International Congress of Ethnobiology in New Zealand in November 1998. Contact: Aroha Te Pareake Mead, Maori Congress, PO Box 13-177, Johnsonville, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand; Tel. +64.4.4797781, Fax +64.4.4947106, e-mail aroham@nzonline.ac.nz
Seeds, in this case, are drupes: fleshy, indehiscent fruits that contain one or more seeds, each surrounded by a stony layer. The fruits pictured here are from Canarium indicum L. (Burseraceae), one of more than 50 species of Canarium distributed from West Africa to Polynesia. Although the standard English common name of canarium nut is used for any nut of the genus Canarium, each species has diverse indigenous names.
Canarium indicum, for example, is known as galip in Papua New Guinea, ngali in the Solomon Islands and nangai in Vanuatu. Among edible nut trees of the South Pacific, the genus Canarium is considered to be of particular economic potential because the nuts have a delicate almond-like taste and a hard non-perishable shell. The trees are widely distributed in Melanesia and have a long history of cultivation, which has led to the selection of several domesticates now recognized as distinct species. Additional information about canarium and other edible nuts of the Pacific can be found in Stevens, M.L., R.M. Bourke and B.R. Evans. 1996. South Pacific Indigenous Nuts. Canberra, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. Contact: Paul Ferrar, ACIAR, GPO Box 1571, Canberra City 2601, Australia; Tel. +61.6.2170549, Fax +61.6.2170501, e-mail ferrar@aciar.gov.au
Piles of Pandanus mats for sale in the market.
A woman from Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands cracking ngali nuts (Photo: Barry Evans).



Photo: Andrew Pawley

Ian Saem Majnep

Ian Saem Majnep, a Kalam speaker, was born about 1948 in Kaironk Valley, in the remote southwest corner of Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. In 1963 Saem met the anthropologist-naturalist Ralph Bulmer and the linguist Andrew Pawley of the University of Auckland, who had begun an interdisciplinary research program among the Kalam and Kobon speaking peoples of the Kaironk Valley. Noting Saem’s expertise in bushcraft, Bulmer enlisted the 15-year-old as one of his informants and field guides. From 1968-1977 Saem worked as a technician in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, assisting researchers in various parts of Papua New Guinea.In the 1970s Saem and Bulmer began to collaborate on a series of writing projects. Their acclaimed book, Birds of My Kalam Country (1977), was edited by Bulmer from transcripts of their conversations. Their later works were all written by Saem in Kalam with English translation and commentary by Bulmer. A short monograph, Some Food Plants in our Kalam Forests, appeared in 1983. Before Bulmer died of cancer in 1988, they had drafted a work of over 800 pages of bilingual text about Kalam knowledge and use of wild animals. A large part of it was published in 1990 as six working papers, Kalam Hunting Traditions, edited by Andrew Pawley.At present Saem is collaborating with Pawley (assisted by the botanist Rhys Gardner) on a book about wild plants of the forest and grasslands, to be called Kalam Plant Lore. This builds on foundations laid by Bulmer and Saem who, over 25 years, had collected plants and information about their contexts and use. In 1989 the University of Papua New Guinea awarded Saem an honorary doctorate in science. Contact: Ian Saem Majnep, c/o Kaironk Community School, Simbai, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea.

Andrew Pawley

Andrew Pawley is Professor of Linguistics and head of the Linguistics Department in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. He studied anthropology and linguistics at the University of Auckland where he received a doctorate in 1967. His main research interests are the description and history of the languages and cultures of Pacific Island peoples and the development of models of language that allow for richer linguistic descriptions. He has done fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Tasmania. Since 1963 he has been engaged in interdisciplinary research among the Kalam of the Schrader Ranges, Papua New Guinea, with the late Ralph Bulmer, Saem Majnep and others, focusing on Kalam perception and use of the natural environment. He has also worked since 1967 with the people of Waya Islands, Western Fiji, on linguistic and ethnobiological studies. Contact: Andrew Pawley, Department of Linguistics, RSPAS, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia; Tel. +61.6.2490028 or 2492279, e-mail apawley@coombs.anu.edu.au


What is this . . . ?

Did you recognize the plant scattered through these pages?

It is Strychnos lucida R. Br. (Loganiaceae), a small tree of 5 m that has white to gray mottled bark. Its leathery, opposite leaves are marked at the base with three prominent veins. It has white tubular flowers in terminal cymes, and orange, beaked globular berries of 2-4 cm diameter. It grows in monsoon vine thickets on sand and rocky hills. Among other uses, the fruits and bark are prepared as a liniment for rheumatism, general weakness, backache, arthritis and painful swellings. The fruits and wood are used for sores, boils, scabies and other skin conditions.The illustration and ethnobotanical information is taken from Traditional Aboriginal Medicines, a book further described under Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory (this issue, page 8).


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