Table of Contents - Volume 3, number 1 (March 1998) - 24 pages
Not every string figure is difficult to learn or requires a lot of steps. Here is a delightful action string figure that represents a jumping flea. The Kwakiutl call it Qat! Yatse.
The central loop represents the flea. To make the flea jump, the horizontal string is snapped taut over and over.
In 1941, noted string figure authority Honor Maude collected a string figure named Teniako's Door from the Kingdom of Tonga, dubbed by Captain Cook as the "Friendly Islands" of the South Pacific. The figure illustrated below, which looks very much like a deck arch bridge, is a simple variation of Maude's figure.
Four-diamond patterns have been found all over the world. But this figure, called Mangbongobo or "Flying Fox" (a fruit-eating bat), uses the most novel and entertaining method of extension that I have seen.
The flying fox has spread its wings! Unlike most other four-diamond patterns which readily collapse in the center, this figure maintains its shape. The final movement, in which hands are thrust into the figure to extend the pattern, really impresses an audience.
Leakey, a famed anthropologist, reportedly knew many string figures and often entertained students and friends with a string figure exhibition. "A Malaysian Fisherman" is a series of string figures accompanied by a story. There are no illustrations given with the original instructions. Audrey Small notes that a closely related series was recorded in Fiji by J. Hornell.
The first figure is "House". This is followed by figures named "Birdcage", "Lobster Trap", "Turtle", "Roasting Grill", and "Island". A story is recited as each figure is appears. At the end of the series, the figure dissolves, symbolizing the coming of a typhoon.
During the 1930s, Paterson participated in several Arctic expeditions. He observed this unnamed figure near Thule, Cape York, located on the northwest coast of Greenland. Apparently the figure is alive and well. A photograph of a Greenlander displaying this unnamed figure, which he likened to a seal, appears in the April 1984 issue of National Geographic.
A common practice in Polynesia is to name a string figure after the first word of the chant that accompanies it, regardless of what the figure represents. For this figure the first word is Palaoa, meaning "plow". It's not clear what the figure represents -- perhaps the sun, which is mentioned at the end of the chant. To me the figure resembles a spider's web. Two players are required.
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