Table of Contents - Volume 5, number 1 (March 2000) - 24 pages
Most string figures consist of a design stretched between parallel upper and lower frame lines. Without the frame lines the design would collapse. There are, however, a few string figures whose frame lines are not strictly parallel.
Here's a very pleasing design from the Tuamotus archipelago that lacks an upper transverse frame line. Rather, the design hangs from two upper frame strings that cross.
Because string figure titles and chants are often ancient, they are not always easy to translate. "Rounded-corner Emblem or Talisman" is one possible translation -- a reference to the conspicuous angled string (inverted "V") in the center of the figure.
The aborigines of Arnhem Land often incorporate "intertwining corkscrew" motifs into their string figure designs (see, for example 'Two Boomerangs' in the June 1999 issue). Here's one that features a very long double helix that temporarily unravels near its midpoint to form two diamonds. The two diamonds represent his pointed ears. The intertwined coils represent the braying sound he makes when he laughs!
'Boar’s Jaw Biting' is a splendid action figure that vividly portrays the gnashing motion of a wild pig's mouth as he devours his meal. Although the figure itself is confined to Tahiti and the neighboring Austral group, its unusual opening is more widely distributed, appearing as far away as Tibet (see ‘Movie Screen’ in the March 1999 issue).
The first design represents the face of the wild boar. The central diamond is his snout. The thumb loops represent his curved tusks.
To make the boar bite, the maker presses his thumbs against the palms. As a result, the lower half of the figure slides past the upper half like a pair of scissors!
String figures are often built from the inside out: the center of the design is formed early in the weaving sequence and the sides are added near the end. Here's an example where the opposite is true.
Mr. Shishido's string figure creations are among the most innovative in the modern repertoire. His methods, though often asymmetric, are always logical.
The Yupik Eskimos of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, love string games, but only a few have been recorded. This trick was shown to ISFA member Dave Titus in 1999. His informant was a fisherman from Savoonga, a village on the island's north coast. The trick begins with a loop hanging from the left index. Then, suddenly, three evenly-spaced knots appear in the loop.
String figures with a circle as part of the design are rather uncommon since applying tension often collapses the circle or causes it to shrink. In this magnificent figure from the Solomon Islands the embedded circle fails to collapse because of the way it is locked into the design. According to the natives, the circle represents the head (skull) of a dreaded ogre. The loops below his head are his legs, and the rectangles on either side are his outstretched arms.
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