Table of Contents - Volume 8, number 3 (September 2003) - 24 pages
This entire issue of String Figure Magazine is devoted to a single string figure series from Papua New Guinea called ‘Rock the Baby’.
In a string figure series one design is transformed into another without it being fully dissolved. Most string figure series are made by one player, but some require two. The traditional ‘Cat’s Cradle’ series is a fine example. In ‘Cat’s Cradle’, players alternate forming designs by lifting the string off each other’s hands.
‘Rock the Baby’ also requires two players, but for many of the manipulations each player contributes only one hand. This feature is very unusual and rarely encountered in traditional string figure repertoires.
There are seven individual designs in the ‘Rock the Baby’ series. Most are not very impressive, consisting of simple diamond patterns. Nevertheless, the series is quite popular among Papuans, largely because the transformations are so dynamic and magical — designs come and go like patterns in a kaleidoscope — and the choreographed movements are so entertaining to watch. Furthermore, the challenge of completing the entire series without a mistake is GREAT FUN!
Since each player contributes only one hand, and the hands act in unison, this series is an excellent tool for teaching someone else how to make string figures — simply tell your assistant to mirror your movements. In fact, virtually any solo string figure can be adapted for two players using this strategy.
Throughout this description, player A’s hands are near the bottom of each illustration while player B’s hands are near the top. To assist the reader, all four hands are shown at first, even though two of the hands are often idle. Labels are added for clarification when necessary.
On three occasions the Caroline Extension is required. Mastering it takes some patience, but practice makes perfect. Two string figure experts should be able to complete the entire series in one attempt. Others will need to start over several times. Whatever happens, don’t give up!
To begin, two players, A and B, face each other with palms facing away.
The first design of the series consists of four diamonds shared by the two players. The figure is displayed with palms facing upward and centered between the players.
The second design of the series is difficult to extend because the lower frame string is not transverse.
The third design of the series is extended vertically. A’s left hand is centered over his belly, palm facing the body, while A’s right hand is centered over his chest, palm facing away.
The fourth design of the series, extended on B’s hands, resembles a fishing net or hammock.
The fifth design of the series, extended on A’s hands, consists of three diamonds, but unlike the third design, A does not need to invert one hand to reveal the pattern.
The sixth design of the series is likewise a three-diamond figure. The twists at the base of 5 ensure a wide extension by preventing the frame strings from slipping.
The seventh figure of the series, which consists of five diamonds, is displayed with palms facing downward. The design represents a baby in a string bag cradle. A and B swing the design from side to side to simulate the baby rocking in its cradle.
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