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Master Poets, Ritual Masters

4

Suti Solo do Bina Bane: Version III from the Domain of Termanu

In 1972, after an absence of more than six years, I returned to Rote to continue my research. As soon as I arrived back on the island, I began to record new ritual language recitations. During the period of my first fieldwork, I had gathered three versions of the chant Suti Solo do Bina Bane.1 On my return, I decided that I would try to gather additional recitations for comparative purposes.

By 1972, Old Meno had died. Another of the great master poets of Termanu, Stefanus Amalo, had also died. Although I had recorded other chants from him, I had never recorded a version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane and this has always been a considerable regret. On the other hand, Seu Ba’i was still alive, but during my second fieldwork, I saw him only on a few occasions. He was particularly concerned to provide me with material that he felt was connected with my previous work with Old Meno. For example, Old Meno had recited a beautiful chant, Dela Koli do Seko Buna, which I published as my first example of a long ritual language recitation (Fox 1971). Old Meno had structured his recitation as a mortuary chant and Seu Ba’i was aware of this fact. He wanted me, however, to recognise that Dela Koli do Seko Buna was in fact an origin chant connected with the two prominent rock formations known as Sua Lai and Batu Hun that dominated the entrance to the harbour of Namodale, near where he lived. He therefore recited a version of this chant to make explicit its origin foundations.

In 1965–66, I had begun to record recitations by the relatively young poet Petrus Malesi or Pe’u Malesi, who was usually referred to simply as Malesi.2 During that first fieldwork, I recorded three chants from Malesi. One of these was a chant that recounted the origin of fire, a version of which I had also recorded from Old Meno; the second was a mortuary chant of less than 100 lines; the third was a version of the origin of rice and millet, whose transcription I showed to Old Meno. He regarded Malesi’s recitation as inadequate and, as a consequence, extended it to make it acceptable. Thus, in 1965–66, Pe’u Malesi was only beginning to demonstrate his skills as a poet; he was not yet regarded as a mature manahelo. But by 1972–73, with only Seu Ba’i as his rival, Malesi was coming into his prime. During my second period on Rote, Malesi, who lived nearby, became a regular visitor at Ufa Len ma Batu Bongo, where I lived, and for a time, he provided me with more material than any other poet in Termanu. He was available for all rituals we carried out, including the mortuary performance, the Lutu Tutus, that Meno’s son and I sponsored in honour of Old Meno.3

Thus in 1973, I recorded a version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane from Pe’u Malesi. This recitation is constructed to portray a cycle that carries Suti Solo do Bina Bane from the sea through the land and back to the sea. No genealogy is provided for any of the chant characters and no explanation is given for the expulsion of the shells from the sea. Nor is there any attempt to link these shells to a transformation into implements for dyeing and spinning. This version is not an origin recitation but rather is presented as a mortuary recitation: a widow and orphan chant.

Figure 7: Petrus Malesi chanting at the mortuary ceremony for Old Meno

The Ocean Storm that Carries the Shells to Tena Lai ma Mae Oe

The recitation begins with the storm that drives the two shells from the ocean and then describes the search for the ritually required fish that results only in the scooping forth of the shells, Suti Solo do Bina Bane.

1.

Luli nala liun dale

A storm arises in the ocean’s depths

2.

Ma sangu nala sain dale

And a cyclone arises in the sea’s depths

3.

Bina nama-toko isi

Bina puts out its insides

4.

Suti nama-edo nggi

Suti exudes its pods

5.

Suti Solo namatani

Suti Solo cries

6.

Ma Bina Bane nasakedu

Bina Bane sobs

7.

De ele piko basa meti

Floating forth through all the tides

8.

Ma bonu boa basa namo

And bobbing along in all harbours

9.

Neu Teni Lai Laok meti na [dean na]

Goes to Tena Lai Laok’s tide [wall]

10.

Ma Mae Oe Loek lutun na

And Mae Oe Loek’s fish catch

11.

Ana lili dela nai ndia

He likes it there

12.

Ma neka nita nai ndia.

And enjoys it there.

The Preparation of the Scoop-Net and the Search for the Ritual Fish

13.

Faik esa manunin

On a certain day

14.

Ma ledok dua matebe

And at a particular time

15.

Teke Hulu Hutu tina na

Teke Hulu Hutu’s garden

16.

Ma Sio Pale Enge osi na

And Sio Pale Enge’s field

17.

Pelak ka nggona-hano

The corn cobs have ripened

18.

Ma betek kala dio-hu.

And the millet stalks have matured.

19.

Ana doko-doe peda-poi na

He seeks to perform the peda-poi ritual

20.

Ma ana tai-boni fua-bafa na

And he requests to do the fua-bafa ritual

21.

Ana lulua Lole Holu

He selects Lole Holu

22.

Ma ana heheli Lua Bafa.

And he chooses Lua Bafa.

23.

Boe ma inak kia Sama Dai

So the woman Sama Dai

24.

Ma fetok kia Kuku Nou

And the girl Kuku Nou

25.

Ana pena na pole aba

She picks bolls of cotton

26.

De pole dai lena aban

Bolls enough for thread

27.

Ma kedi na lata do

And cuts strips of lontar leaf

28.

De lata tolesi don

Leaf enough for strips

29.

Ana neni neu seko

She makes them into a scoop-net

30.

Fo seko matei besi

A scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

31.

Ma tale na neu ndai

And fashions them into a fishnet

32.

Fo ndai mahamu lilok

A fishnet with a gold-weighted belly

33.

Neu seko sanga Dusu La’e

She goes to scoop for a Dusu La’e

34.

Ma ndai sanga Tio Holu

And goes to fish for a Tio Holu

35.

Mai Tena Lai Laok lutun

In Tena Lai Laok’s fish catch

36.

Do Mae Oe Loek lutun

Or Mae Oe Loek’s fish catch.

37.

Seko nala meti dua

She scoops in two tides

38.

Na Suti nala meti dua

Suti is in those two tides

39.

Ma ndai nala namo telu

And she fishes in three harbours

40.

Na Bina nala namo telu.

Bina is in those three harbours.

41.

Seko na Suti Solo

She scoops up Suti Solo

42.

Na seko fo ndaso heni

She scoops and throws him away

43.

Ma ndai na Bina Bane

She fishes up Bina Bane

44.

Na ndai fo toko henin.

She fishes and throws him away.

The Dialogue with the Shells

It is at this point that the dialogue with Suti Solo and Bina Bane begins.

45.

Suti Solo dede’ak

Suti Solo speaks

46.

Ma Bina Bane kokolak ma nae:

And Bina Bane talks and says:

47.

‘Seko heni Suti Solo

‘If you scoop but throw away Suti Solo

48.

Ma ndai heni Bina Bane

And fish but throw away Bina Bane

49.

Na Suti, au o se

I, Suti, with whom will I be

50.

Ma Bina, au o se?

And I, Bina, with whom will I be?’

51.

Inak kia Sama Dai

The woman Sama Dai

52.

Lole halan na neu

Lifts her words

53.

Ma fetok kia Kuku Nou

And the girl Kuku Nou

54.

Selu dasin na neu:

Raises her voice:

55.

‘Mu mo timi di’i

‘Go with the timi post

56.

Ma mu mo lungu tua.’

And go with the lungu beam.’

57.

Bina Bane kokolak

Bina Bane speaks

58.

Ma Suti Solo dede’ak ma nae:

And Suti Solo replies and says:

59.

‘Malole la so

‘That would be good

60.

Ma mandak kala so

And that would be proper.

61.

Au o timi di’i

I will go with the timi post

62.

Ma au o lungu tua,

And I will go with the lungu beam,

63.

Te hu lungu tua natahi

But if the lungu beam sags

64.

Ma timi di’i na so’o

And the timi post tilts

65.

Au asalai o se

On whom will I recline

66.

Ma au angatu o se

And on whom will I sit

67.

Fo se-tele o se

With whom will I laugh

68.

Ma ata-dale o se?’

And with whom will I take heart?’

69.

Inak kia Sama Dai

The woman Sama Dai

70.

Ma fetok kia Kuku Nou

And the girl Kuku Nou

71.

Ana lole lele halan

She lifts her words encouragingly

72.

Ma selu doko-doe dasin, nae:

And raises her voice coaxingly, saying:

73.

‘Mu no bou tua

‘Go with the lontar syrup vat

74.

Ma mu mo neka hade.’

And go with the rice basket.’

75.

Bina Bane kokolak

Bina Bane speaks

76.

Ma Suti Solo dede’ak ma nae:

And Suti Solo replies and says:

77.

‘Malole la so

‘That would be good

78.

Ma mandak kala so

And that would be proper

79.

Bou tua na tono

[But if] the syrup vat is overturned

80.

Ma neka hade lulunu

And the rice basket is rolled up

81.

Na au asalai o se

Then with whom will I recline

82.

Ma au angatu o se?’

And with whom will I sit?’

83.

Inak kia Sama Dai

The woman Sama Dai

84.

Ana lole lekek halan

She lifts her words sweetly

85.

Ma fetok kia Kuku Nou

And the girl Kuku Nou

86

Selu doko-doe dasin, nae:

Raises her voice coaxingly, saying:

87.

‘Mu mo peu ai

‘Go with the boundary tree

88.

Ma mu mo to batu.’

And go with the border stone.’

89.

Bina Bane kokolak

Bina Bane talks

90.

Ma Suti Solo dede’ak ma nae:

And Suti Solo speaks and says:

91.

‘Malole la so

‘That would be good

92.

Ma mandak kala so.

And that would be proper.

93.

Au u o to batu

I will go with the border stone

94.

Ma ami meu mo peu ai

And we will go with the boundary tree

95.

Te hu ala ketu heni ndoto osin

But if they snap off spreading beans

96.

Ma se heni tuli hena

And they clear away the pigeon peas

97.

Na to ai la hiluk

Then the border tree will go down

98.

Ma lane batu la keko

And the marker stone will shift

99.

Na ami masalai mo se

Then with whom will we recline

100.

Ma ami magatu mo se?’

And with whom will we sit?’

101.

De Bina bei nasakedu

So Bina continues to sob

102.

Ma Suti bei namatani.

And Suti continues to cry.

103.

Boe ma Sama Dai kokolak

Then Sama Dai speaks

104.

Ma Kuku Nou nafada na nae:

And Kuku Nou replies, saying:

105.

‘Meu mo kumea letek

‘Go with the kumea grass on the hill

106.

Ma meu mo kuku telas.’

And go with the kuku shrub in the underbrush.’

107.

Boe ma nae:

Then he says:

108.

‘Malole la so

‘That would be good

109.

Ma mandak kala so

And that would be proper.

110.

Te hu pila kumea letek

But if the red kumea on the hills

111.

Lamadilu neu kalen

Bends at its top

112.

Ma nggeo kuku telas

And the black kuku of the underbrush

113.

Lamasesu leu bu’un

Breaks at its joints

114.

Bina Bane neu se

To whom will Bina Bane go

115.

Fo setele no se

With whom to laugh

116.

Ma Suti Solo no se

And with whom will Suti Solo go

117.

Fo nata-dale no se?’

With whom to take heart?’

118.

Fo Suti bei namatani

So Suti continues to cry

119.

Ma Bina bei nasakedu.

And Bina continues to sob.

120.

Boe ma inak ka Sama Dai

The woman Sama Dai

121.

Ma fetok ka Kuku Nou

And the girl Kuku Nou

122.

Ana lole halan na neu

She lifts her words

123.

Ma selu dasin na neu ma nae:

And raises her voice and says:

124.

‘Mu mo doa lasi

‘Go with the forest cuckoo

125.

Ma mu mo koloba’o le.’

And go with the river woodcock.’

126.

Boe ma Bina Bane nahala

Then Bina Bane gives voice

127.

Ma Suti Solo nafada ma nae:

And Suti Solo speaks and says:

128.

‘Au o kolobao le

‘I will go with the river woodcock

129.

Na malole la so

Such would be good

130.

Ma mandak kala so.

And such would be proper.

131.

Te timu lamatua dulu

But if the wind increases in the east

132.

Ma hu’ak [fak] lamanalu langa

And the monsoon extends at the headlands

133.

Na kulu kolobao le

Then the river woodcock

134.

Ba’o-ba’o tunga le

[Cries] ba’o-ba’o along the river

135.

Ma betu doa lasi la

And the forest woodcock

136.

Do’o-do’o tunga lasi

[Cries] do’o-do’o through the forest

137.

Na Bina Bane no se

Then with whom will Bina Bane be

138.

[Fo] setele no se

With whom to laugh

139.

Ma Suti Solo no se

And with whom will Suti Solo be

140.

Fo nata-dale no se?’

With whom to take heart?’

141.

Boe Bina bei pinu idu

So Bina still drips snot from the nose

142.

Ma Suti bei lu mata.

And Suti still drops tears from the eyes.

The Final Directive to Return to the Sea

143.

Boe ma inak ka Sama Dai

So the woman Sama Dai

144.

Do fetok ka Kuku Nou

Or the girl Kuku Nou

145.

Lole hala na neu

Lifts her words

146.

Lole hala di’u dua

Lifts words to repeat

147.

Ma selu dasi nasafali ma nae:

And raises her voice to say again:

148.

‘Mu le titian

‘Go along the river’s bank

149.

Ma mu oli tatain.’

And go along the estuary’s edge.’

150.

Besaka ifa-la Suti Solo

So she lifts Suti Solo

151.

Ma ko’o-la Bina Bane

And she cradles Bina Bane

152.

De leu le titian

Then they go to the river bank

153.

Ma leu oli tatain

And they go to the estuary’s edge.

154.

Boe ma besak ka timu lamatua dulu

Now the wind increases in the east

155.

Ma hu’ak [fak] lamanalu langa

And the monsoon extends at the headlands

156.

Boe ma timu nggefu neu Suti Solo

The monsoon blows Suti Solo

157.

Ma ani fupu neu Bina Bane

And the wind strikes Bina Bane

158.

De ele piko neu liun

Floating forth like piko wood to the sea

159.

Ma ana bonu boa neu sain

And bobbing forth like boa wood to the ocean

160.

Nde lili dela neu sain

He likes going to the ocean

161.

Ma neka nita neu liun

And enjoys going to the sea

162.

De leo faik ia dalen

As on this day

163.

De neka nita nai liun

He likes it in the sea

164.

Ma leo ledok ia tein.

And as at this time.

Composition Analysis: Old Meno–Seu Ba’i–Malesi Comparisons

Malesi’s composition is shorter than either Meno’s or Seu Ba’i’s compositions. It consists of 164 lines based on 73 dyadic sets. Of these 73 sets, 31 are shared in common with Meno’s composition, which comprises 103 sets. Some 31 sets, although not all the same, are shared with Seu Ba’i’s composition, which comprises 85 sets. Only 27 of the same sets are used in all three compositions. Based on shared dyadic sets, Malesi’s composition is more closely related to that of Seu Ba’i than to that of Meno.

Ritual Names: People and Places

Malesi introduces new chant characters in his composition. In both Meno’s and Seu Ba’i’s compositions, the woman who scoops up the shells is Pedu Hange//Nggiti Seti. In Malesi’s composition, this woman is named Sama Dai//Kuku Nou. All three compositions indicate the need to search for ritual fish in order to carry out the ceremony of the peda-poi//fua-bafa harvest ritual. But each chant differs as to whose ritual this is. For Meno, this is Manupui Peda//Kokolo Dulu’s origin feast//feast of nine; for Seu Ba’i, it is Manupui Peda//Boko Dulu’s ceremony. For Malesi, it is Teke Hulu Hutu//Sio Pale Enge’s ritual. All three compositions agree, however, on the importance of Lole Holu//Lua Bafa. Meno’s composition provides her genealogy, but only Malesi makes clear her significance. She is the woman designated to perform the critical harvest ritual. All three compositions also agree on the sacred site of Tena Lai//Mae Oe as the place where the encounter with the shells occurs and where they are scooped from the sea. In his composition, Malesi identifies this site by making it into the personal name of the ‘owner’ of the fish weir, Tena Lai Laok//Mae Oe Loek, where the shells are found.

Directives in the Dialogue with the Shells

Most of Malesi’s composition consists of the dialogue with the shells. This dialogue contains five separate directives, whereas both Meno’s and Seu Ba’i’s compositions have six distinctive directives. Of Malesi’s five directives, three are shared with Meno and four with Seu Ba’i. It could also be argued that Malesi’s first directive to the house shares a similarity to the other compositions. Meno’s first directive is for the shells to make their home with Lole Holu//Lua Bafa, whereas Seu Ba’i designates a part of the house, the cooking fire//upper house, which is a different part of the house to that designated by Malesi. Malesi’s five directives are the following:

Table 1: A Comparison of Dialogue Directives

Meno

Seu Ba’i

1) house post//floor beam

2) syrup vat//rice basket

x

x

3) boundary tree//border stone

x

x

4) kumea grass//kuku shrub

x

5) forest cuckoo//river watercock

x

x

Of these various passages, it is worth comparing the three compositions in relation to boundary tree//border stone. Whereas for Meno this passage is only eight lines, for Seu Ba’i and for Malesi, their equivalent passages comprise 15 to 16 lines.

Old Meno

195.

‘Te na mu mo peu ai

‘Then go with boundary tree

196.

Ma mu mo to batu.’

And go with border stone.’

197.

Boe ma Suti boe kokolak

Still Suti talks

198.

Ma Bina boe dede’ak ma nae:

And still Bina speaks and says:

199.

‘Te hu ai dedean ta

‘But a tree does not talk

200.

Ma batu kokolan ta.’

And a stone does not speak.’

201.

Bina boe nasakedu

Still Bina sobs

202.

Ma Suti boe namatani.

And still Suti cries.

Seu Ba’i

87.

‘Mu mo peu ai lasi

‘Go with boundary tree of the forest

88.

Ma mu mo to batu nula.’

And go with border stone of the wood.’

89.

Boe te Bina, ana kokolak

But Bina, he talks

90.

Ma Suti, ana dede’ak, nae:

And Suti, he speaks, saying:

91.

‘Malole ndia so

‘This is good

92.

Ma mandak ndia so.

And this is proper.

93.

Au o peu ai lasi

I will be with boundary tree of the forest

94.

Ma au o to batu nula

And I will be with border stone of the wood

95.

Te bafi ka’a neni pelak

But if pig chews the maize

96.

Au dede’ak o se

With whom will I speak

97.

Ma kode ketu neni betek

And if monkey plucks the millet

98.

Au kokolak o se

With whom will I talk

99.

Do se’ek o se

Or be noisy with whom

100.

Ma oku-boluk o se

And shout with whom

101.

Sama leo Lua Bafa

[With someone] just like Lua Bafa

102.

Ma deta leo Lole Holu?’

And [someone] exactly like Lole Holu?’

Malesi

87.

‘Mu mo peu ai

‘Go with the boundary tree

88.

Ma mu mo to batu.’

And go with the border stone.’

89.

Bina Bane kokolak

Bina Bane talks

90.

Ma Suti Solo dede’ak ma nae:

And Suti Solo speaks and says:

91.

‘Malole la so

‘That would be good

92.

Ma mandak kala so.

And that would be proper.

93.

Au u o to batu

I will go with the border stone

94.

Ma ami meu mo peu ai

And we will go with the boundary tree

95.

Te hu ala ketu heni ndoto osin

But if they snap off spreading beans

96.

Ma se heni tuli hena

And they clear away the pigeon peas

97.

Na to ai la hiluk

Then the border tree will go down

98.

Ma lane batu la keko

And the marker stone will shift

99.

Na ami masalai mo se

Then with whom will we recline

100.

Ma ami magatu mo se?’

And with whom will we sit?’

101.

De Bina bei nasakedu

So Bina continues to sob

102.

Ma Suti bei namatani.

And Suti continues to cry.

Old Meno

195.

‘Te na mu mo peu ai

‘Then go with boundary tree

196.

Ma mu mo to batu.’

And go with border stone.’

Seu Ba’i

87.

‘Mu mo peu ai lasi

‘Go with boundary tree of the forest

88.

Ma mu mo to batu nula.’

And go with border stone of the wood.’

Malesi

87.

‘Mu mo peu ai

‘Go with the boundary tree

88.

Ma mu mo to batu.’

And go with the border stone.’

In a comparison of the three compositions, Malesi’s lines directing the shells on where to go are virtually the same as those of Old Meno. Seu Ba’i’s lines require some consideration because he attaches a place marker to ‘boundary tree//border stone’ as if to imply that this is a personal name. His personification of each entity to which the shells are directed is more explicit than either Meno’s or Malesi’s. Each entity is, in effect, given a name.

Following this directive, the response in Meno’s composition is blunt and to the point:

199.

‘Te hu ai dedean ta

‘But a tree does not talk

200.

Ma batu kokolan ta.’

And a stone does not speak.’

In Seu Ba’i’s and Malesi’s compositions, by contrast, the following six lines are more similarly extended:

Seu Ba’i

89.

Boe te Bina, ana kokolak

But Bina, he talks

90.

Ma Suti, ana dede’ak, nae:

And Suti, he speaks, saying:

91.

‘Malole ndia so

‘This is good

92.

Ma mandak ndia so.

And this is proper.

93.

Au o peu ai lasi

I will be with boundary tree of the forest

94.

Ma au o to batu nula

And I will be with border stone of the wood

Malesi

89.

Bina Bane kokolak

Bina Bane talks

90.

Ma Suti Solo dede’ak ma nae:

And Suti Solo speaks and says:

91.

‘Malole la so

‘That would be good

92.

Ma mandak kala so.

And that would be proper.

93.

Au u o to batu

I will go with the border stone

94.

Ma ami meu mo peu ai

And we will go with the boundary tree

Although these particular lines resemble each other closely, Malesi adds a flourish that some poets utilise to enhance the parallelism of their composition. Thus, in Malesi’s composition (lines 93–94), the shells reply by combining a singular ‘I’ with a plural ‘we’.

After these similar lines, their compositions diverge. Seu Ba’i invokes the image of a bounded corn and millet field that is pillaged by pig and monkey, whereas Malesi invokes the image of a temporary bean and pea garden that is harvested. In the end, in Malesi’s composition, the shells are left on their own to sob and to cry. And eventually they return to the sea.


1 I gathered my third version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane from the blind master poet of the domain of Ba’a, L. Manoeain. His version of this recitation will be discussed with versions of this text from other non-Termanu dialect areas.

2 Malesi was sometimes also called Suara Malesi (‘Voice of Malesi’) in mock recognition of Suara Malaysia (‘Voice of Malaysia’) whose broadcasts could occasionally be heard by those who had a radio. My first fieldtrip coincided with the period of ‘Confrontation’ with Malaysia and listening to ‘Voice of Malaysia’ was supposedly forbidden. Since no one in Termanu (that I know of) had a radio, listening to ‘Voice of Malaysia’ was hardly an issue but one could joke that no one needed to listen to ‘Suara Malaysia’ because we had ‘Suara Malesi’, which was much better and certainly clearer.

3 I have described this performance and the chanting associated with it in Fox (1989).


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