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Master Poets, Ritual Masters

9

Suti Solo do Bina Bane: Versions VIII and IX from the Domain of Termanu

In 2010, some 45 years after I began my research on Rote, much had changed in Termanu. Most of the poets whose compositions I recorded had died and what remained of their poetry were memories and my recordings. One poet, Esau Markus Pono, whom I first met in 1965, spanned this period of change and was, at the time, regarded as Termanu’s leading chanter. In 1965, ‘Pak Pono’ lived in the coastal settlement of Hala, a walk of some 40 minutes from the cluster of settlements, Sosa-Dale, Ufa-Len and Kola, where my wife and I were located. As a young man at that time, Pak Pono was involved in a protracted and eventually unsuccessful attempt to marry a woman from the clan Nggofa-Laik. We met and knew of each other but had no close association. By 1973, on my next long stay on Rote, Pak Pono had married and had begun to establish his reputation as a preacher and a poet. At that time, I was involved in sponsoring the final mortuary ceremony—erecting a ring of stones around a large living tree to create a tutus—in honour of Old Meno and needed someone to act as primary speaker at this ritual.1

Pak Pono was the ideal person for this task because of his evident speaking skills and because, as a preacher, his presence would allay any Christian objections to my reviving so significant a traditional ritual. I was also interested in acquiring animals for the accompanying feast and was able to barter my watch for Pak Pono’s largest pig. His performance at the tutus ceremony established what was to become our continuing relationship.

Some years later, in 1977 and again in 1978, I visited Rote with the filmmaker Tim Asch. By this time, Pak Pono was widely recognised for his use of ritual language in his preaching, and we were able to film him conducting a church service.2 He was also a member of the groom’s party in a bridewealth payment ceremony that we filmed. As a result of his close involvement in our filming efforts, we invited him for a visit to Canberra to help in the preparation of the film.3 One of his tasks was to transcribe a great deal of Rotenese that we recorded during filming.

By the 1980s, Pak Pono and I had become close friends and on all subsequent visits to Rote, he was my first point of contact in Termanu. For the past 30 years, as his own skills as an accomplished poet increased, he became my most dedicated advisor on all matters relating to ritual language. On all occasions when I gathered poets for recording sessions on Bali, he joined the group. In short, we two grew old together in a continual effort to document the beauty and intricacies of Rotenese ritual language.

Although I had heard Pak Pono recite Suti Solo do Bina Bane to other poets, I did not record him directly until 2008, and having recorded him in 2008, I asked to record him again (and video him at the same time) in 2009. With an interval of only a year, his two versions are similar to one another. Neither version is long. The 2008 version runs to 126 lines; the 2009 version is somewhat longer and comes to 150 lines. The 2008 version comprises 50 dyadic sets; the 2009 version shares 48 sets with the 2008 version but utilises a dozen additional dyadic sets including several additional longer formulae.

Figure 9: Esau Markus Pono – ‘Pak Pono’

As compositions, the two versions are worth comparing one with the other: their use of constituent dyadic sets, their order of composition and their reliance on recognisable formulae can provide further insights into the art of composition.

I will therefore compare the two compositions in sequence with one another.

Introduction and Search for the Ritual Fish

2008 Version

1.

Faik esa manunin

On one particular day

2.

Do ledok esa mate’e-na

Or one certain time

3.

Inaka Mo Bisa

The woman Mo Bisa

4.

Ma fetoka Ole Masi

And the girl Ole Masi

5.

Ana nggao na seko meti-na

She takes up her tidal scoop-net

6.

Fo seko matei besin

The scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

7.

Ma tenga na ndai tasi-na

And picks up her sea fishing net

8.

Fo ndai mahamu lilo-na.

The fishing net with gold-weighted belly.

9.

De leu seko sisi’u enggak

They go to scoop lift the enggak seaweed

10.

Ma leu ndai huhuka batu.

And they go to uncover the rocks.

11.

De seko sanga Dusu La’e

They scoop in search of Dusu La’e fish

12.

Ma leu ndai sanga Tio Holu.

And they go to fish in search of Tio Holu fish.

13.

De ala ndai basa namo-la

They fish in all the harbours

14.

Ma seko basa lek-ala.

And they scoop in all the waterholes.

15.

Te ta hapu Tio Holu

But do not find Tio Holu

16.

Ma ta hapu Dusu La’e.

And do not find Dusu La’e.

2009 Version

1.

Au kokolak Suti Solo

I speak of Suti Solo

2.

Ma au dede’ak Bina Bane.

And I tell of Bina Bane.

3.

Neu faik esa manunina

On one particular day

4.

Ma ledok esa mate’ena,

And at a certain time,

5.

Boe ma inaka Mo Bisa

The woman Mo Bisa

6.

Ma fetoka Masi Tasi

And the girl Masi Tasi

7.

Tenga la ndai tasi-na

Pick up their sea fishing net

8.

Ma nggao la seko meti-na

And take up their tidal scoop-net

9.

Fo seko matei besik

The scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

10.

Ma ndai mahamu lilok.

And the fishing net with gold-weighted belly.

11.

Neu lelek fo meti la si unu

At a time when the tide begins to ebb

12.

Ma tasi la huka papa

And the sea shows its shallows

13.

Boe duas leu seko meti

The two go to scoop in the tide

14.

Ma duas leu ndai tasi.

And the two go to fish in the sea.

15.

Leu seko sisi’u enggak

Go to scoop and lift the enggak seaweed

16.

Ma leu ndai huhuka batu,

And go to fish and uncover the rocks,

17.

Seko sanga Dusu La’e

Scoop in search of Dusu La’e fish

18.

Ma ndai sanga Tio Holu.

And fish in search of Tio Holu fish.

19.

Tehu ala seko basa lifu la

But they scoop in all the pools

20.

Ma ala ndai basa lek ala,

And they fish in all the waterholes,

21.

Te ta hapu Tio Holu

But they do not find Tio Holu

22.

Ma ta hapu Dusu La’e.

And do not find Dusu La’e.

The Gathering of Suti Solo do Bina Bane

2008 Version

17.

Te lala lifu dua na

But when they look in two pools

18.

Suti nala lifu dua

Suti is in the two pools

19.

Ma lala lek telu

And when they look in three waterholes

20.

Na Bina nala lek telu.

Bina is in the three waterholes.

21.

Boe ma ala seko ndano leni Suti

So they scoop up and take Suti

22.

Ma ala ndai ndano leni Bina.

And they fish forth and take Bina.

2009 Version

23.

Te ala seko lala lifu dua

But when they scoop in two pools

24.

Na Bina nala lifu dua

Bina is in the two pools

25.

Ma ndai lala lek telu

And when they fish in three waterholes

26.

Na Suti nala lek telu.

Suti is in the three waterholes.

27.

Boe ma ala dudu’a

So they ponder

28.

Ma ala a’afi

And they think

29.

De lae le baik

It would be better if

30.

Seko teni Suti Solo

We scoop and take Suti Solo

31.

Ma ndai teni Bina Bane.

And we fish and take Bina Bane.

32.

Boe ma ala ndai ndano

So they fish forth

33.

Leni Bina Bane

Taking Bina Bane

34.

Ma ala seko toko

And they scoop up

35.

Leni Suti Solo.

Taking Suti Solo.

Initial Dialogue and First Directive

2008 Version

23.

De ala mai dalak dua bobongo

They come to where two roads circle

24.

Ma mai enok telu tai lolona.

And come to where three paths cross.

25.

Boe ma Suti neu kokolak

Suti begins to speak

26.

Ma Bina neu dede’ak, nae:

And Bina begins to talk, saying:

27.

‘Ndele mafa ndendelek

‘Remember, do remember

28.

Ma nesa masa nanedak

And keep in mind, do keep in mind

29.

Bo inango nou

My dear mother

30.

Ma bo te’ongo nei

And my dear aunt

31.

O mu losa lo

[When] you go to your home

32.

Ma o mu nduku uma

And you go to your house

33.

Na boso masu ndalu au

Do not smoke me

34.

Ma boso pila nuli au,

And do not burn me,

35.

Te au daehena

For I am a human being

36.

Ma au ia hataholi.

And I am indeed a person.

37.

Au ia ana-mak

I am indeed an orphan

38.

Ma au ia falu-inak.’

And I am indeed a widow.’

39.

Boe ma ala kokolak

So they speak

40.

Ma ala dede’ak ma lae:

And they talk, saying:

41.

‘Sona mu dalak dua bobongon

‘Then go to where two roads circle

42.

Ma mu enok telu tai lolon.’

And go to where the three paths cross.’

43.

Boe ma Suti Solo do Bina Bane

So Suti Solo or Bina Bane

44.

Ala kokolak

They speak

45.

Ma ala dede’ak ma lae:

And they talk and say:

46.

‘Malole basa sila

‘All this is good

47.

Ma mandak basa sila.

And all this is proper.

48.

Tehu hataholi mai

But if people come

49.

Ma daehena mai

And humans come

50.

Na ala momolo tatabu ami

They will step and tread upon us

51.

Na ami kokolak mo se

Then with whom will we speak

52.

Ma ami dede’ak mo se?’

And with whom will we talk?’

2009 Version

36.

De ala mulai

They then begin

37.

Ala tulek do ala falik,

They go back or they return,

38.

Falik mai leo uma

Return to the home

39.

Ma tulek mai leo lon.

And go back to the house.

40.

De ala bela’o

As they go

41.

Boe ma Suti ana dede’ak

Suti, he talks

42.

Ma Bina ana kokolak, nae:

And Bina, he speaks, saying:

43.

‘Bo inango nou

‘My dear mother

44.

Do bo te’ongo nou

Or my dear aunt

45.

Neda masa-nenedak

Keep in mind, do keep in mind

46.

Ma ndele mafa ndendelek

And remember, do remember

47.

Fo teu losa uma sona,

When we reach the house,

48.

Boso pila nuli ami

Do not burn us

49.

Do boso masu ndalu ami,

Or do not smoke us,

50.

Te ami ia dae-hena

For we indeed are human beings

51.

Ma ami ia hataholi,

And we indeed are people,

52.

Ami falu-ina Bina Bane la

We are the widows, Bina Bane

53.

Ma ami ana-ma Suti Solo la.’

And we are the orphans, Suti Solo.’

54.

Boe ma ala dede’ak

So they talk

55.

Ma ala kokolak lo duas lae:

And they speak with the two, saying:

56.

‘Ita nai enok dua bobongon

‘We are where two paths circle

57.

Ma nai dalak telu tai lolona

And where three roads cross

58.

Ela emi dua meme ia.’

Let us leave you here.’

59.

Boe ma nae:

So he says:

60.

‘Malole ndia so

‘That would be good

61.

Ma manda ndia so,

That would be proper,

62.

Tehu daehena mai

But if humans come

63.

Ma hataholi mai

And people come

64.

Na ala momolo ami

They will step on us

65.

Ma ala tatabu ami,

And they will tread on us,

66.

Na ami maka bani neu se

Then on whom will we rely

67.

Ma ami mama hena neu se?’

And on whom will we depend?’

Second Dialogue Directive

2008 Version

53.

Boe ma lae:

So they say:

54.

‘Sona mu mo sa’o tua

‘Then go be with the lontar shadow

55.

Ma mu mo mafo ai.’

And go be with the tree shade.’

56.

Boe ma Suti Solo nahala

So Suti Solo gives voice

57.

Ma Bina Bane nadasi ma nae:

And Bina Bane lifts words and says:

58.

‘Ami [mo] mafo ai

‘We [can] go with the tree shade

59.

Te mafo ai la heok

But if the tree shade shifts

60.

Ma ami mo sa’o tua

And we can go with the lontar shadow

61.

Fo sa’o tua lahiluk.

But if the lontar shadow moves

62.

Na ami kokolak mo se

Then with whom will we speak

63.

Ma ami dede’ak mo se?’

And with whom will we talk?’

2009 Version

68.

Boe ma lae:

So they say:

69.

‘Sona dua ma

‘So the two of you

70.

Meu mo mafo tua

Go with lontar shade

71.

Ma meu mo sa’o ai.’

And go with the tree shadow.’

72.

Boe ma lae:

Then they say:

73.

‘Ndia boe o malole ndia

‘That indeed would be good

74.

Tehu neu faik

But during the day

75.

Mafo ai la heok

If the tree shade shifts

76.

Ma sa’o tua hiluk,

And the lontar shadow moves,

77.

Na ami kokolak mo se

Then with whom will we speak

78.

Ma ami dede’ak mo se?’

And with whom will we talk?’

Third Dialogue Directive

2008 Version

64.

‘Na sona mu mo neka hade

‘Then go with the rice basket

65.

Ma mu mo bou tua.’

And go with the lontar syrup vat.’

66.

Boe ma lae ndia:

So they say this:

67.

‘Boe o malole ndia so

‘Oh, that would be good

68.

Ma mandak ndia so,

And that would be proper,

69.

Tehu fui-ana la kae

But if strangers climb up [into the house]

70.

Ma ae-ana la hene na

And if neighbours ascend [into the house]

71.

Basa bou tua la

The syrup vat will be finished

72.

Ma basa neka hade la.

And the rice basket emptied,

73.

Na ami kokolak mo se

Then with whom will we speak

74.

Ma ami dede’ak mo se?’

And with whom will we talk?’

2009 Version

79.

Boe lahala ma lae: ‘A sona

So they give voice and say: ‘If so,

80.

Dua ma meu mo neka hade

Then you two go with the rice basket

81.

Ma dua ma meu mo bou tua.’

And you two go with the lontar syrup vat.’

82.

Boe ma lae:

So they say:

83.

‘Tete’ek ndia nde malole

‘Truly, that would be good

84.

Ma na nde mandaka

And that would be proper

85.

Tehu neu fai-na ma ledo-na

But on a certain day and time

86.

Fo fui ana la kae

If strangers climb [into the house]

87.

Ma ae ana la hena

And neighbours ascend [into the house]

88.

Na basa neka hade

Then the rice basket will be emptied

89.

Ma basa bou tua,

And the syrup vat finished

90.

Na ami mama hena neu se

Then on whom will we depend

91.

Ma ami maka bani neu se?’

And on whom will we rely?’

Fourth Dialogue Directive

2008 Version

75.

Boe ma nae:

So she says:

76.

‘Mu mo lete nalu kala

‘Go be with the high hills

77.

Mu mo mo loa kala.’

And go be with the wide fields.’

78.

Boe ma nae:

So he says:

79.

‘Ndia boe malole

‘That would be good

80.

Ma ndia boe o manda-kala

And that would be proper

81.

Tehu neu fai-na fo bote-la mai

But some day a flock of goats will come

82.

Ma neu ledo na tena-la mai

And at a certain time a herd of buffalo will come

83.

Fo ala heheta [ami]

They will trample us into the mud

84.

Ma hahapa ami

And they will tread us into the dirt

85.

Na ami dede’ak mo se

Then with whom will we speak

86.

Ma ami kokolak mo se?’

And with whom will we talk?’

2009 Version

92.

Boe ma nae: ‘Sona,

So she says: ‘If so,

93.

Dua ma meu mo mo naluk

You two should go with the long field

94.

Ma meu mo lete lepak.’

And go with the mountain ridge.’

95.

Boe ma nae:

Then he says:

96.

‘Auwe, sona ndia faik

‘Oh dear, if that day

97.

Fo bote la lama da’a mai

Goats come and scatter about

98.

Ma tena la lama nggela main a

And buffalo come and spread out

99.

Nau ta nau fa o

Wish it or not

100.

Ala heheta do hahapa ami so,

They will tramp or tread upon us,

101.

Sona ami nama henak ta

For us, there is nothing to depend on

102.

Ma ami naka banik ta.’

And for us, there is nothing to rely upon.’

Fifth and Final Dialogue Directive

2008 Version

87.

‘Sona mu le tatai-na

‘Then go to the edge of the river

88.

Ma mu oli titiana

And go to the side of the estuary

89.

Fo ela leo bena

So that it may be so

90.

Faik fo betu doa lasi

Each day the forest cuckoos

91.

Ala bedoa tunga lasi

They cry doa-doa through the forest

92.

Na udan tunga lasi

As the rain comes through the forest

93.

Ma koloba’o le la taona

And the river woodcocks do the same

94.

Bebao tunga le

[They] cry bao-bao along the river

95.

Na fa tunga-tunga le.

As the monsoon flood moves down the river.

96.

Sona dilu mu sain dale

So that descending, you go into the sea

97.

Ma loe mu liun dale.’

And lowering, you go into the ocean.’

98.

Boe ma nae:

So he says:

99.

‘Malole ndia so

‘That would be good

100.

Ma mandak ndia.

And that would be proper.

101.

Fak ala foki le na

When the monsoon rains beat the river

102.

Foki leni ami

They will beat and carry us

103.

Meu leo sain dale

That we may go into the sea

104.

Ma ami meu liun dale.

And we may go into the ocean.

105.

De ami bonu boa fo liun

We will bob like boa wood to the ocean

106.

Ma ami ele piko fo sain.’

And we will drift like piko wood to the sea.’

2009 Version

103.

Boe ma nae: ‘Sona mai,

So she says: ‘If that happens,

104.

Fo meu le titiana

Then go to the side of the river

105.

Ma meu oli tatai-na

And go to the edge of the estuary

106.

Fo meu faik fo de’eka [?]

So that you go each day

107.

Doa lasi la bedoa

The forest cuckoos cry doa-doa

108.

Fo lae betu doa lasi la

Thus the forest cuckoos

109.

Bedoa tunga lasi na

They cry doa-doa through the forest

110.

Udan tunga tunga lasi,

As the rain comes through the forest,

111.

Boe ma kolo ba’o le la

So the river woodcocks along the river

112.

Ala beba’o tunga tunga le

They cry bao-bao along the river

113.

Na fa tunga tunga le.

And the monsoon flood moves down the river.

114.

De neu faik fo betu doa lasi la,

So each day the forest cuckoos,

115.

Ala bedoa tunga lasi

They cry doa-doa through the forest

116.

Boe ma udana boe

Just as the rain comes

117.

Tunga tunga lasi

Following through the forest

118.

De fa boe ana mai

Just as the monsoon flood comes

119.

Menik koloba’o a

To carry away the woodcock

120.

Ana ba’o-ba’o tunga le.’

Who crys bao-bao along the river.’

121.

Lae: ‘Malole ndia.’

They say: ‘That is good.’

122.

De duas lae:

The two say:

123.

‘Ia sona nda dalek ma tesa teik.’

‘This is pleasing and satisfying.’

The Return to the Sea and Concluding Lines

2008 Version

107.

Boe ma neu nduku sain

So he goes to the sea

108.

Ma leu nduku liun.

And they go to the ocean.

109.

Boe ma liun na e’edo

The sea continually casts out

110.

De ana edo heni Suti nggi

It casts forth Suti’s pod

111.

Ma ana toko heni Bina isin.

And it throws out Bina’s contents.

112.

Ana edo heni Suti nggi

It casts out Suti’s pod

113.

Ma ana toko heni Bina isin.

And throws out Bina’s contents.

114.

Boe ma ana bonu boa

He bobs like boa wood

115.

Ma ana ele piko

And he drifts like piko wood

116.

Basa namo la

[Through] all the harbours

117.

Ma basa tasi la.

And all the seas.

118.

De losa faika

So to this day

119.

Ma nduku ledo ka

And until this time

120.

Mita kada Bina loun

We see only Bina’s shell

121.

Ma hapu kada Suti loun.

And find only Suti’s shell.

122.

Te isin ta.

But no contents.

123.

Bina bei ma-isik

Bina still has contents

124.

Tehu Suti isin ta.

But Suti has no contents.

125.

Losa faik ia

To this day

126.

Ma nduku ledok ia.

And until this time.

2009 Version

124.

De dua leu

So the two go

125.

Le tatai-na ma oli titiana.

To river’s edge and estuary’s side.

126.

De faika fo fa ana mai

Then one day the monsoon comes

127.

Nafa foki neni Bina

The waves beat and carry Bina

128.

Ma nafa foki neni Suti.

And the waves beat and carry Suti.

129.

De ala bonu boa de [neu] liu

They bob like boa wood and go to the ocean

130.

Ma ala ele piko de [neu] sain.

And they drift like piko wood and go to the sea.

131.

Tehu leu sain boe ma

But when they are in the sea

132.

Liun neu na-pode

The ocean throws them back

133.

Ma sain boe o na-edo

And the sea casts them out

134.

Nai fak lama nalu langa

When the monsoon lengthens its head

135.

De liun pode heni Bina isin

The ocean throws away Bina’s contents

136.

Ma sain edo heni Suti nggin.

And the sea casts away Suti’s pods.

137.

Nalak duas bonu boa selu

Then the two bob back like boa wood

138.

De ala dae mai

They come to land

139.

De ala madak mai.

They come to dry land.

140.

Tehu Bina bei ma isik

But Bina still has some contents

141.

Ma Suti isi ta.

And Suti has no contents.

142.

De losa besaka.

So it is to the present.

143.

Ala tao Bina neu dipo ina

They make Bina into a spinning base

144.

Ma tao Suti neu tena tauk

And make Suti into an indigo container

145.

Fo ina mana pa’a abasala

So the woman who winds cotton

146.

Ma feto ma feo futusala

And the girl who dyes the threads

147.

Tao neu dipo inak

They make a spinning base

148.

Ala tao neu tena tauk.

And they make an indigo container.

149.

De losa besaka Bina bei ma isik

Until now, Bina still has content

150.

Te Suti isin ta kada louna.

But Suti has only its shell.

Compositional Analysis

As is evident from the very beginning, there are various subtle differences between Pak Pono’s 2008 and 2009 recitations. Most notably, in terms of the ritual knowledge of names, Pak Pono gives slightly different names to the women who scoop up Suti Solo do Bina Bane. In the 2008 version, they are named Mo Bisa//Ole Masi, while in the 2009 version, they are named Mo Bisa//Masi Tasi. Significantly as well, the 2009 version is longer, and to reach each equivalent point in the chant narrative, this version utilises more lines. Thus illustratively, in its initial sequence, the 2009 version has six more lines than the 2008 version, beginning with the opening lines: ‘I speak of Suti Solo and I tell of Bina Bane.’ For each of the 16 lines in the 2008 version, however, there is a similar equivalent line. Although the ordering of these lines varies, they are all—with one exception—composed of the same dyadic sets.

There is yet another significant difference between these two versions. Given the dyadic nature of compositions, poets have the option of presenting their recitation in single or plural format—or, as commonly occurs, in a mix of singular and plural formats. Thus, for example, in its early lines and throughout the narrative, the 2008 version mixes singular and plural. Thus, on line five, ana is the singular, third-person pronoun ‘she’, while in line 13, ala is the plural, third-person pronoun ‘they’. (As a consequence, verbal agreements, where necessary, are either singular or plural.) By contrast, the 2009 version is consistently presented in the plural. In lines seven and eight, for example, both verbs tenga-la and nggao-la are plural forms; in lines 13, 14, 15 and 16, the plural form leu of the verb ‘to go’ is used, and the third-person plural pronoun is used throughout the composition.

As a consequence of these differences and the order of composition, the various lines in the two recitations differ slightly, even though they are, for the most part, based on the same dyadic sets. In the initial sequence, only lines 13 and 14 of the 2008 version use a different dyadic set from lines 19 and 20 in the 2009 version. The 2008 version uses the dyadic set namo//lek (‘harbour’//‘waterhole’), whereas the 2009 version uses the set lifu//lek (‘pool’//‘waterhole’). Notably, however, several lines further on in the 2008 version (lines 17–20), Pak Pono uses the set lifu//lek, as he does consistently in his 2009 version.

As a simple illustration, it is useful to compare the first 16 lines of the 2008 version with their equivalent lines in the 2009 version.

The First 16 Lines of the 2008 Version Compared

1.

Faik esa manunin

On one particular day

(3)

Neu faik esa manunina

On one particular day

2.

Do ledok esa mate’e-na

Or one certain time

(4)

Ma ledok esa mate’ena,

And at a certain time,

3.

Inaka Mo Bisa

The woman Mo Bisa

(5)

Boe ma inaka Mo Bisa

The woman Mo Bisa

4.

Ma fetoka Ole Masi

And the girl Ole Masi

(6)

Ma fetoka Masi Tasi

And the girl Masi Tasi

5.

Ana nggao na seko meti-na

She takes up her tidal scoop-net

(8)

Ma nggao la seko meti-na

And take up their tidal scoop-net

6.

Fo seko matei besin

The scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

(9)

Fo seko matei besik

The scoop-net with iron-weighted insides

7.

Ma tenga na ndai tasi-na

And picks up her sea fishing net

(7)

Tenga la ndai tasi-na

Pick up their sea fishing net

8.

Fo ndai mahamu lilo-na.

The fishing net with gold-weighted belly.

(10)

Ma ndai mahamu lilok.

And the fishing net with gold-weighted belly.

9.

De leu seko sisi’u enggak

They go to scoop lift the enggak seaweed

(15)

Leu seko sisi’u enggak

Go to scoop and lift the enggak seaweed

10.

Ma leu ndai huhuka batu.

And they go to uncover the rocks.

(16)

Ma leu ndai huhuka batu,

And go to fish and uncover the rocks,

11.

De seko sanga Dusu La’e

They scoop in search of Dusu La’e fish

(17)

Seko sanga Dusu La’e

Scoop in search of Dusu La’e fish

12.

Ma leu ndai sanga Tio Holu.

And they go to fish in search of Tio Holu fish.

(18)

Ma ndai sanga Tio Holu.

And fish in search of Tio Holu fish.

13.

De ala ndai basa namo-la

They fish in all the harbours

(19)

Tehu ala seko basa lifu la

But they scoop in all the pools

14.

Ma seko basa lek-ala.

And they scoop in all the waterholes.

(20)

Ma ala ndai basa lek ala,

And they fish in all the waterholes,

15.

Te ta hapu Tio Holu

But do not find Tio Holu fish

(21)

Te ta hapu Tio Holu

But they do not find Tio Holu fish

16.

Ma ta hapu Dusu La’e.

And do not find Dusu La’e fish.

(22)

Ma ta hapu Dusu La’e.

And do not find Dusu La’e fish.

As these recitations proceed, the play on singular and plural continues. Thus, in Suti Solo do Bina Bane’s first dialogue, the 2008 version uses the singular ‘I’ (au) while the 2009 version begins with the use of the third-person singular pronoun (ana) and a first-person singular possessive pronoun (-ngo) but then uses the plural ‘we’ (ami) throughout the actual dialogue.

It is useful to compare the slightly different ways in which these passages are composed. The only compositional flaw that is apparent in comparing the passages is in the 2009 version, which lacks a corresponding line for line 47. Lines 31 and 32 in the 2008 version reveal the expected and appropriate pairing of the sets losa//nduku (‘up to’//‘towards, until, at’) and uma//lo (‘house’//‘home’). The arrangement of the lines is similar but not entirely identical. The lines with ‘My dear mother and my dear aunt’ either precede or follow the lines with ‘Remember, do remember and keep in mind, do keep in mind’.

2008 Version: Initial Dialogue

25.

Boe ma Suti neu kokolak

Suti begins to speak

26.

Ma Bina neu dede’ak, nae:

And Bina begins to talk, saying:

27.

‘Ndele mafa ndendelek

‘Remember, do remember

28.

Ma nesa masa nenedak

And keep in mind, do keep in mind

29.

Bo inango nou

My dear mother

30.

Ma bo te’ongo nei

And my dear aunt

31.

O mu losa lo

[When] you go to your home

32.

Ma o mu nduku uma

And you go to your house

33.

Na boso masu ndalu au

Do not smoke me

34.

Ma boso pila nuli au,

And do not burn me,

35.

Te au dae-hena

For I am a human being

36.

Ma au ia hataholi.

And I am indeed a person.

37.

Au ia ana-mak

I am indeed an orphan

38.

Ma au ia falu-inak.’

And I am indeed a widow.’

2009 Version: Initial Dialogue

41.

Boe ma Suti ana dede’ak

Suti, he talks

42.

Ma Bina ana kokolak, nae:

And Bina, he speaks, saying:

43.

‘Bo inango nou

‘My dear mother

44.

Do bo te’ongo nou

Or my dear aunt

45.

Neda masa-nenedak

Keep in mind, do keep in mind

46.

Ma ndele mafa ndendelek

And remember, do remember

47.

Fo teu losa uma sona,

When we reach the house,

48.

Boso pila nuli ami

Do not burn us

49.

Do boso masu ndalu ami,

Or do not smoke us,

50.

Te ami ia dae-hena

For we indeed are human beings

51.

Ma ami ia hataholi,

And we indeed are people,

52.

Ami falu-ina Bina Bane la

We are the widows, Bina Bane

53.

Ma ami ana-ma Suti Solo la.’

And we are the orphans, Suti Solo.’

Although with their various uses of singular and plural and the missing line in the 2009 version these two passages are indeed different, their composition is in fact based on the same eight dyadic sets: 1) kokolak//dede’ak; 2) ina//te’o; 3) nedak//ndelek; 4) losa//nduku; 5) uma//lo; 6) pila nuli//masu ndalu; 7) daehena//hataholi; 8) falu-ina//ana-mak.

In both versions, this passage asserts the dominant theme of the composition: that the shells Suti Solo do Bina Bane are orphans in search of a permanent place of refuge and genuine fellowship. In the 2008 version, immediately after this passage, Pak Pono begins the familiar refrain that marks most versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane:

Na ami kokolak mo se

Then with whom will we speak

Ma ami dede’ak mo se?

And with whom will we talk?

In the 2008 version, this refrain, which is first enunciated in lines 51/52, is repeated in lines 62/63, 73/74 and 85/86—each time in reply to one of the directives on where to seek refuge.

The 2009 version also uses this formulaic refrain but alternates with another formulaic refrain:

Na ami maka bani neu se

Then on whom will we rely

Ma ami mama hena neu se?

And on whom will we depend?

This refrain occurs first in lines 66/67 and is followed in lines 77/78 by the same refrain that is used throughout the 2008 version:

Na ami kokolak mo se

Then with whom will we speak

Ma ami dede’ak mo se?

And with whom will we talk?

This refrain is then followed by a return to the first refrain in lines 90/91 but with the order of the two lines reversed:

Na ami mama hena neu se

Then on whom will we depend

Ma ami maka bani neu se?

And on whom will we rely?

Finally, where one expects a return to the alternative refrain in lines 101/102, Pak Pono offers another, more emphatic variant of his initial refrain:

Sona ami nama henak ta

For us, there is nothing to depend on

Ma ami naka banik ta.

And for us, there is nothing to rely upon.

Coming as the last in a succession of these refrains, this is a powerful poetic assertion.

Like other versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane, the concluding passages of both of Pak Pono’s recitations recount the return of the shells to the sea.

The 2008 version presents this return to the sea with what is a commonplace observation that is frequently heard on Rote. Whereas a bailer shell (bina) is occasionally found with some remnant fleshy content, a nautilus shell is always found without its content. This observation is the basis for the concluding lines of the 2008 version:

120.

Mita kada Bina loun

We see only Bina’s shell

121.

Ma hapu kada Suti loun.

And find only Suti’s shell.

122.

Te isin ta.

But no contents.

123.

Bina bei ma-isik

Bina still has contents

124.

Tehu Suti isin ta.

But Suti has no contents.

125.

Losa faik ia

To this day

126.

Ma nduku ledok ia.

And until this time.

Technically, the composition of lines 120–24 is not based on pairs and should probably be considered as a commentary on the recitation rather than as an integral part of it. Lines 125/126 simply repeat lines 118/119 as an appropriate conclusion.

The 2009 version has a more complex conclusion. It recounts the passage of the shells to the sea, but then recounts their return to the land and their transformation into specific cultural objects: the first spinning base and first indigo container. As, for example, in Old Meno’s composition, this statement—just six lines out of a total of 150 lines—links this recitation to a special corpus of sacred origin chants, even though the precise connections to this corpus are not articulated. Were these connections not articulated in other versions, the concluding lines in this version would make little sense, especially when they are inserted with observations about the content or lack of content in the two types of shell.

135.

De liun pode heni Bina isin

The ocean throws away Bina’s contents

136.

Ma sain edo heni Suti nggin.

And the sea casts away Suti’s pods.

137.

Nalak duas bonu boa selu

Then the two bob back like boa wood

138.

De ala dae mai

They come to land

139.

De ala madak mai.

They come to dry land.

140.

Tehu Bina bei ma isik

But Bina still has some contents

141.

Ma Suti isi ta.

And Suti has no contents.

142.

De losa besaka.

So it is to the present.

143.

Ala tao Bina neu dipo ina

They make Bina into a spinning base

144.

Ma tao Suti neu tena tauk

And make Suti into an indigo container

145.

Fo ina mana pa’a abasala

So the woman who winds cotton

146.

Ma feto ma feo futusala

And the girl who dyes the threads

147.

Tao neu dipo inak

They make a spinning base

148.

Ala tao neu tena tauk.

And they make an indigo container.

149.

De losa besaka Bina bei ma isik

Until now, Bina still has content

150.

Te Suti isin ta kada louna.

But Suti has only its shell.

In ritual terms, if a version of Suti Solo do Bina Bane recounts the passage of the nautilus and bailer shells from the sea through a series of impermanent stations and then finally back to the sea, it can be used as a mortuary chant symbolic of the passage of a human being, as an orphan and widow, through the course of a lifetime. If, however, a recitation alludes to the creation and use of the nautilus and bailer shells as key ritual objects in the processes of weaving and dyeing, it constitutes an origin chant and forms part of a larger corpus of sacred knowledge. Pak Pono’s 2008 version can appropriately be considered a mortuary chant whereas his 2009 version—because of the brief ritual allusions at its conclusion—can more appropriately be considered as an origin chant.

These versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane were among the last recitations of Esau Pono. Although he continued to preside at our recording sessions in Bali, he grew ever weaker at each gathering and eventually he was too weak to join our ninth session in 2014. Sometime after midnight on the 16th of December 2014, he died. At his funeral his fellow poets gathered to chant his farewell and with the help of Dr Lintje Pellu, who travelled from Kupang to Rote, I was able to send a chant that I composed to give voice to our long friendship.


1 I have described this ceremony and set out, in detail, the background to it in Fox (1989).

2 I have written on Pak Pono’s use of ritual language in his preaching in Fox (1982).

3 A film was made of the bridewealth payment ceremony, Spear and Sword: A Payment of Bridewealth (Fox with Asch and Asch 1988), but no film was ever made from the footage of the church service. All of the footage is stored in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution.


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