Table of Contents - Volume 9, number 3 (September 2004) - 24 pages
Form an upright loop is a command that is commonly encountered in Honor Maude’s instructions for making Nauruan string figures. Though technically not a finishing technique, it nonetheless plays an important role in optimizing the display of many patterns since it creates small “tethers” that help anchor the central design to the upper and lower frame strings, which the maker tries to separate as widely as possible during the final extension. For this reason it is likewise illustrated here to help beginners master the classics of the Nauruan string figure repertoire.
Iburingijo (‘Flower of the Tomano Tree’) is one of the simplest Nauruan string figures that utilizes the Eongatubabo finishing sequence. After forming Opening A, the performer introduces a full twist into each loop by rotating the finger a full turn. This is immediately followed by the long Eongatubabo sequence, which ends with a Caroline Extension.
The Eongatubabo sequence is utilized extensively throughout Micronesia, but is named differently at each location. In her book on string figures of the Gilbert Islands, Honor Maude calls the sequence the Banaban Movement, simply because her informants on Banaba Island had no name for it. In her book on Tikopia string figures, she uses the native terms tao (hold down) and ta (manipulate) to name the sequence. Remarkably, nearly half of the 54 string figures described in the book utilize the tao and ta sequence.
Eoredeto (‘The Long-Tailed Cuckoo’) is a simple variation of Iburingijo (‘Flower of the Tomano Tree’). Prior to rotating the finger loops, a segment of the left far index string is twisted to form an upright loop. The left little finger loop is passed up through it and reset on the little finger. This introduces a small vertical loop into the final pattern, which serves as a “stalk” for the central diamond.
In this figure, the vertical loop represents the tail of a bird. But in order for the tail to point down rather than up, the entire figure must be turned over prior to extension by rotating it a half turn around its horizontal axis. This technique was employed frequently by Nauruan string figure artists to obtain a desired pattern.
Here’s another variation of Iburingijo, the ‘Flower of the Tomano Tree’. Prior to rotating the finger loops, a single double diamond is formed by completing nearly all the instructions for making the Nauruan figure Ekwan (‘The Sun’), as described in the March 1997 issue. Upon rotating the finger loops and performing the Eongatubabo sequence, four double diamonds appear.
This figure is a variation of ‘Four Double Diamonds’. Rather than forming only one double diamond prior to rotating the finger loops, two double diamonds are formed by simply repeating the movements that gave rise to the first double diamond.
Like the previous figure, this figure was also called ‘Eongatubabo’. In fact, any figure that consisted of more than three double diamonds was called ‘Eongatubabo’. But if the strings of each diamond were evenly spaced along the frame lines after the figure was displayed, the figure became ‘Itubwer’, a floor mat made from plaited palm fronds. When Honor Maude revisited the island for a few days in 1938, she was given a photo of a figure made by string figure expert Ijauwe consisting of no less than seven double diamonds arranged to form a mat!
Upon extending the figure, you will either get five double diamonds...
...or a figure that represents a traditional floor mat made from plaited palm fronds.
Factors such as string texture, string thickness, loop length, and the degree of tension applied during the weaving process determine which of the two designs you will get.
Ten years ago Joseph D’Antoni wrote an article for the ISFA Bulletin called “Variation on Nauru Island Figures.” In it, he showed how various central design motifs can be combined with various Nauruan finishing techniques to create dozens of new figures. His article includes 135 examples. Illustrated instructions for making Figure 122 are provided here. Figure 126, a gorgeous design that features two double hexagons, is derived from 122 by introducing two clockwise (CW) and two counterclockwise (CCW) loop moves into the weaving sequence, just prior to the finger loop rotations.
D’Antoni 122 is very ornate, but the center tends to remain closed upon extension.
One way to open up the central motif is to create vertical tethers by introducing CW and CCW loop moves into the weaving sequence. The result is D'Antoni 126.
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