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Master Poets, Ritual Masters

15

Suti Solo do Bina Bane: A Version from the Domain of Bilba

When I set out to bring poets from different parts of Rote to Bali for recording in 2006, I was entirely uncertain of whom I would be able to attract and, more importantly, what the abilities of these various poets would be. Initially I had to rely on two master poets who were critical to the project from the beginning: Esau Pono from Termanu and Ande Ruy from Ringgou. In turn, they relied on what they could learn about the reputations of other poets in different domains. I insisted that we endeavour to invite poets from all the domains—or at least all the larger domains—thus prompting them to seek out a range of able poets. In the second recording session that I held, we invited some notable poets from Landu and one distinguished elder poet from Bilba, who unfortunately came down with malaria and was able to provide only a limited number of recitations. It was not until the fifth recording session, in October 2009, that I was able to invite another three able poets from Bilba. Among these poets was Kornalius Medah, who turned out to be a poet of exceptional ability: able, versatile and fluent, with a considerable and distinctive repertoire. His recitation of Suti Solo do Bina Bane is the longest I recorded and is certainly one of the most elaborate. Although it resembles, in many recognisable features, recitations of Suti Solo do Bina Bane from Termanu, it is distinctive and remarkable.

The Narrative Structure of Kornalius Medah’s Suti Solo do Bina Bane

Like other versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane, Kornalius Medah’s narrative recounts a journey. This journey follows a cycle that eventually returns to where it began. The narrative begins and ends in Dulu Oli//Langa Le (‘East Estuary’//‘Headland River’). Suti Solo and Bina Bane leave Dulu Oli//Langa Le, enter the sea and begin their journey in search of a place of ‘certainty and security’ where they hope to be able to find a ‘true mother’ (literally, ‘a birth mother’: ina bongi) and a ‘true father’ (literally, ‘a birth father’: ama bongi). At one point, this sought-after kin attachment is also referred to as a ‘lineage aunt’ (te’o leo) and ‘land mother’ (ina ingu).

On their journey, Suti Solo and Bina Bane experience various ‘encounters’, each of which in the end proves unfulfilling. These encounters are personalised and designated by distinct person/place names. Each name reveals the nature and condition of the encounter. Initially, Suti Solo and Bina Bane find contentment in the sea: the rolling waves and meandering sea (pela oe leleu//tasi oe lalama).

In the sea, the shells experience three encounters:

1.

tele tasi//hamu le

‘sea refuse’//‘river dregs’

2.

engga lima//latu koko

‘Seaweed Lima’//‘Waterweed Koko

3.

le naluk//lifu loak

‘long river’//‘wide pool’

Only after this sea journey does the girl ‘Tomorrow’s Tide’ and the woman ‘Dawning Sea’ (Meti Balaha//Tasi Dulupila) scoop the two shells from the sea. They, in turn, place the shells within the house, but the shells shift from one place within the house to another:

4.

timi di//nata tuak

‘house post’//‘lontar beam’

5.

bou tua//neka hade

‘lontar vat’//‘rice basket’

When neither of these places proves satisfactory, they shift progressively further from the house to:

6.

tua timu//hade safu

‘east lontar (season)’//‘savu rice (harvest)’

7.

nita lete//dela mo

‘mountain nitas (tree)’//‘field delas (tree)’

8.

tuli tini//kaba osi

‘pigeon pea garden’//‘cotton field’

Figure 18: Kornalius Medah

They then make a decision to return to Dulu Oli//Langa Le and there set forth on a specifically named path (eno//longe) that is identified as that of:

9.

Hena Le//I Lasi

‘Pandanus River’//‘Jasmine Forest’

This path leads them to:

10.

Nilu Neo//Ko Nau

‘The Nilu Neo Tree’//‘The Ko Nau Tree’

Nilu Neo//Ko Nau become their ‘true mother’ and ‘true father’ (ina bongi//ama bongi), where they rest ‘content’ and ‘satisfied’ (tesa teik//tama dalek).

As such, Kornalius Medah’s Suti Solo do Bina Bane is more of a ritual lament about the nature of life than an origin chant. After the departure of the shells from Dulu Oli//Langa Le and until their return, each episodic encounter follows a similar formulaic development that begins with initial contentment but quickly turns to disappointment and leads to a departure in search of yet another encounter.

For presentation’s sake, I have arranged this recitation into separate sections beginning in Dulu Oli//Langa Le, followed in turn by a succession of encounters, concluding with the return to Dulu Oli//Langa Le and the Pandanus//Jasmine path leading to Nilu Neo//Ko Nau.

Kornalias Medah’s recitation begins with the shells in East Estuary and Headland River with both their mother and their father. They wake their parents to seek for peace and well-being (soda-molek), recognising that there are inner satisfaction and heartfelt contentment with both mother and father in East Estuary and Headland River. Yet this condition is neither certain nor lasting.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane in East Estuary (Dulu Oli) and Headland River (Langa Le)

1.

Tene-tu ana mak Le Naluk

Hasten the orphan Le Naluk

2.

Ma hae-lai falu ina Oli Loak.

And hurry the widow Oli Loak.

3.

Faik lia nasa-kendu Le Lain

On this day, Le Lain sobs

4.

Ma ledok na nama-tani Oli Dale

And at this time, Oli Dale cries

5.

Sama leo Suti Solo

Just like Suti Solo

6.

Ma deta leo Bina Bane.

And similar to Bina Bane.

7.

Te hu faik lia Suti ma-no ina bongik

But on this day Suti has a birth mother

8.

Ma ledok na Bina ma-no ama bongik,

And at this time Bina has a birth father,

9.

Suti no ina na ma Bina no ama na.

Suti with his mother and Bina with his father.

10.

Hu no tepok lia Suti natane sodak ka

At that time Suti seeks well-being

11.

Ma lelek na Bina teteni molek ka.

And at the moment Bina asks for peace.

12.

Lia na foa kela ina bongi na

He wakes his true mother

13.

Ma lako kela ama bongi na,

And to greet his true father,

14.

Mai de tena neuk Dulu Olin

To descend to Dulu Oli

15.

Ma monu neuk Langa Len, lae:

And go down onto Langa Le, saying:

16.

‘Tesa teik Dulu Oli

‘There is inner satisfaction in Dulu Oli

17.

Ma tama dalek Langa Le.’

And heartfelt contentment in Langa Le.’

18.

Te hu tean tak Dulu Olin

Yet nothing is certain at Dulu Oli

19.

Ma mepen tak Langa Len

And nothing is permanent at Langa Le.

The shells descend into the sea where they continue to find contentment and satisfaction in the rolling waves but they are no longer with their parents. These lines, as is so often the case in ritual language recitations, shift between singular and plural in reference to the shells.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Descend into the Rolling Waves and Meandering Seas

20.

Faik lia dilu liu na neu

On this day, he goes down into the ocean

21.

Ma ledok na loe sain na neu

At this time, he descends into the sea

22.

Neu no pela oe leleu ka

To go with the rolling waves

23.

Ma neu no tasi oe lalama ka.

And to go with the meandering seas.

24.

Neu [no] pela oe leleu ka,

To go with the rolling waves,

25.

Hika boe setele

Laughing loudly

26.

Ma neu tasi oe lalama

In the meandering seas

27.

Eki boe lata-dale.

Shouting gaily.

28.

Lia na lae:

So they say:

29.

Tesa teik pela oe leleu na

Satisfaction in the rolling waves

30.

Ma tama dalek tasi oe lalama na.

Contentment in meandering seas.

31.

Tehu noi-tao leo lia

Yet however one strives

32.

Ho tunu-hai leo lia

There is trouble there

33.

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

34.

Ho kelo-kea leo na.

There is difficulty there.

35.

Lia na dadi neuk Suti Solo

This happens to Suti Solo

36.

Ma na moli neuk Bina Bane

And this arises for Bina Bane

37.

Ho ina o tak ma ama o tak.

With no mother and with no father.

A storm arises and the shells lose their inner pods. They bob like boa wood and drift like piko wood, speaking and crying to themselves.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane are Carried Away by Storm and Cyclone

38.

Faik lia luli dulu fafae na

On day a storm arises in the waking east

39.

Ma ledok na sangu langa titipa na.

And at one time a cyclone blows at the thrusting head.

40.

Boe ma li sio lasa-ngengeli

Nine waves rage

41.

Ma nafa falu laka-tutulek

And eight crests heave

42.

Pode ketu Suti ate na

Cutting loose Suti’s liver

43.

Ma lui ketu Bina ngi na.

Pulling out Bina’s pods.

44.

Suti bonu-bonu,

Suti bobs and bobs,

45.

Bonu boa no ao na

Bobs like boa wood on his own

46.

Ho nama-tani no ao na.

Crying on his own.

47.

Bina ele-ele,

Bina drifts and drifts,

48.

Ele piko no ao na

Drifts like piko wood on his own

49.

Ho nama-tani no ao na.

Crying on his own.

50.

Boe ma Suti de’a-de’a no Bina

Then Suti speaks with Bina

51.

Ma Bina kola-kola no Suti:

And Bina talks with Suti:

52.

‘Tia Suti nga ko

‘Suti, my friend

53.

Ma sena Bina nga ko,

And Bina, my companion,

54.

Tean o tak ma mepen o tak.

Nothing is certain and nothing permanent.

55.

Pode hini ita ate na

Our liver is cut away

56.

Lui hini ita ngi na

And our pod is pulled out

57.

De bonu boa to ao tala

We bob like boa wood on our own

58.

Ma ele-ele to ao tala,

And we drift and drift on our own,

59.

Tehu ma-uak ka dei

But with fortune still

60.

Ma-nalek ka bali.’

And with luck yet.’

Suti Solo and Bina Bane begin their encounters, the first of which is with sea refuse and river dregs. Rather than being directed to these encounters, each encounter marks the movement of the shells. An encounter begins in optimism and ends with recognition of that encounter’s impermanence and of the need to continue the journey.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Encounter Sea Refuse and River Dregs

61.

Faik lia tele tasi bobonu na

This day the sea’s refuse comes bobbing

62.

Ma hamu le e’ele na.

And the river’s dregs drift by.

63.

Suti tepa noi tele tasi

Suti meets the sea’s refuse

64.

Ma Bina kala noi hamu le.

And Bina strikes the river’s dregs.

65.

Luku no hamu le

Squats on the river’s dregs

66.

Ma sake no tele tasi,

And snuggles with the sea’s refuse,

67.

Hika no setele

Laughing loudly

68.

Ma eki ho lata dale.

And shouting with joy.

69.

Boe ma dua dea-dea

Then the two speak

70.

Ma dua kola-kola

And the two talk

71.

‘Tean nai hamu le so

‘Certainty lies in the river’s dregs

72.

Mepen nai tele tasi so.

And security rests in the sea’s refuse.

73.

De hika boe-boe setele

To laugh out loud

74.

Ma eki boe-boe lata-dale.

And shout out with joy.

75.

Tehu noi-tao leo lia

Yet however one strives

76.

Tean tak hamu le

There is no certainty in the river’s dregs

77.

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

78.

Mepen tak tele tasi.’

There is nothing lasting in the sea’s refuse.’

79.

Faik lia luli dulu fafae seluk

One day a storm arises again in the waking east

80.

Ma ledok na sangu langa titipa seluk.

And at one time a cyclone blows again at the head.

81.

Boe ma li lasa-ngengeli

The waves rage

82.

Ma nafa laka-tutulek.

And the crests heave

83.

Li tipa hini Suti

The waves push Suti away

84.

Ma nafa sonu hini Bina.

And the crests thrust Bina away.

85.

De bonu-bonu no ao na

He bobs and bobs on his own

86.

Ho nasa-kedu no ao na

While sobbing on his own

87.

Ma ele-ele no ao na

And he drifts and drifts on his own

88.

Ho nama-tani no ao na.

While crying on his own.

89.

Li tipa nini mai

The waves push forward

90.

Ho tipa nini Suti mai

Pushing Suti forward

91.

Ma nafa toko nini mai

And the crest thrusts forward

92.

Ho toko nini Bina mai.

Thrusting Bina forward.

93.

Ma-uak neu Suti Solo

Luck is with Suti Solo

94.

Ma-nalek neu Bina Bani.

And good fortune is with Bina Bane.

The next encounter is with seaweed and waterweed. The shells join with this seaweed but its vulnerability to heat and rain makes it particularly fragile. So, crying to themselves, the shells move onward.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Encounter Seaweed Lima and Waterweed Koko

95.

Faik lia tepa noi Engga Lima

One day they meet Seaweed Lima

96.

Ledo na kala noi Latu Koko.

At one time they encountered Waterweed Koko.

97.

Suti de’a-de’a no ao na

Suti speaks to himself

98.

Ma Bina kola-kola no ao na,

And Bina talks to himself,

99.

‘Dua topa teuk Engga Lima leo

‘Let us two befriend Seaweed Lima

100.

Ma dua tai teuk Latu Koko leo.’

And let us two be close to Waterweed Koko.’

101.

Boe ma luku lo Engga Lima

So they squat with Seaweed Lima

102.

De tesa teik Engga Lima

And are satisfied with Seaweed Lima

103.

Ma sake lo Latu Koko

And they snuggle with Waterweed Koko

104.

De tama dale Latu Koko.

And are content with Waterweed Koko.

105.

Lae: ‘Tean na nai lia so.’

They say: ‘Certainty is here.’

106.

Ma lae: ‘Mepen na nai na so.’

And they say: ‘Permanence is here.’

107.

Tehu noi-tao leo lia

Yet however one strives

108.

Ho tunu-hai leo lia

There is trouble there

109.

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

110.

Ho kelo-kea leo na.

There is difficulty there.

111.

Faik na uda te Engga Lima

One day the rain spears Seaweed Lima

112.

Ma lelek lia ledo ha Latu Koko.

And one time the sun heats Waterweed Koko.

113.

De tean ta Engga Lima

So no certainty with Seaweed Lima

114.

Ma mepen tak Latu Koko.

And no security with Waterweed Koko.

115.

Uda te Engga Lima

The rain spears Seaweed Lima

116.

De kou heni Engga Lima

Causing Seaweed Lima to disappear

117.

Ma ledo ha Latu Koko

And the sun heats Waterweed Koko

118.

De noe heni Latu Koko

Causing Waterweed Koko to dissolve

119.

Dadi neu te’o leo

To [cease] to become a lineage aunt

120.

Ma moli neuk ina ingu.

And [cease] to be a domain mother.

121.

Lasakedu lo ao nala

They sob to themselves

122.

Ma lamatani lo ao nala.

And cry to themselves.

The shells drift to Long River and Wide Pool where again they recognise the precariousness of their situation.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Encounter Long River and Wide Pool

123.

Boema bonu-bonu lo ao nala

So they bob and bob on their own

124.

Bonu boa lo ao nala

Bob like boa wood on their own

125.

Ma ele-ele lo ao nala

And drift and drift on their own

126.

Ele piko lo ao nala.

Drift like piko wood on their own.

127.

Faik lia noi-tao leo lia

On this day, however one strives

128.

Ho tunu-hai leo lia

There is trouble there

129.

Ma ledok na sanga-tao leo na

At this time, however one seeks

130.

Ho kelo-kea leo na.

There is difficulty there.

131.

Faik lia bonu-bonu no ao

One day bobbing on his own

132.

Na tepa noi le naluk

He meets with long river

133.

Ma ledok na ele-ele no ao

One time drifting on his own

134.

Na te kala noi lifu loak.

He encounters wide pool.

135.

Bina luku no lifu loak

Bina squats in wide pool

136.

Ma Suti tai no le naluk.

And Suti meets with long river.

137.

Boema dua de’a-de’a lo ao nala

The two speak with each other

138.

Ma dua kola-kola lo ao nala.

And the two talk with each other.

139.

Ita tean tak le naluk

Our certainty is not in long river

140.

Ma ita mepen tak lifu loak.

And our security is not in wide pool.

141.

Boe ma noi-tao leo lia

But however one strives

142.

Ho tunu-hai leo lia

There is trouble there

143.

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

144.

Ho kelo-kea leo na.

There is difficulty there.

At this point, Tomorrow’s Tide (Meti Balaha) and Dawning Sea (Tasi Dulupila) are introduced by their ritual names. They prepare their scoop-nets and then set out to fish for two required ritual fish—in this case, Moka Holu and Kuku Lake. Meti Balaha and Tasi Dulupila scoop up Suti Solo and Bina Bane from the middle of Long River and Wide Pool. The shells beg Meti Balaha and Tasi Dulupila to be their mother and father to protect and shelter them.

Tomorrow’s Tide and Dawning Sea Scoop-net Suti Solo and Bina Bane

145.

Feto Meti Balaha na

The girl Tomorrow’s Tide

146.

Ma ina Tasi Dulupila na

And the woman Dawning Sea

147.

Ane bubui ho seko

She braids and twines a scoop-net

148.

Seko bui na fepa deak

A scoop-net of heavy lontar leaf

149.

Teli kokono ho lai

She strings and twists a fishnet

150.

Lai ke na kabak dok.

A fishnet with cotton thread.

151.

Dua leu lama-seko totoko

The two go to cast their scoop-net

152.

Ma dua leu lama-lai lalano.

And the two go to throw their fishnet.

153.

Leo seko sanga Moka Holu

Scoop-netting for Moka Holu

154.

Ho kelak seko la Moka

To scoop forth Moka fish

155.

Na Moka la-holu ao.

For the Moka protects itself.

156.

Leu lai tunga Kuku Lake

Fishing for Kuku Lake

157.

Ho kelak lai la Kuku

To fish forth Kuku fish

158.

Na Kuku lasa-lake ao.

For the Kuku guards itself.

159.

Faik lia loe neuk metik

One day they go down to the tidal shore

160.

Ledok na dilu neuk namo

One time they descend to the estuary

161.

Tehu tepa lo noi Suti Solo

But they meet with Suti Solo

162.

Ma kala lo noi Bina Bane

And they encounter Bina Bane

163.

Bonu-bonu no ao na

Bobbing on his own

164.

Ho nai lifu loak ka dale so

In the middle of wide pool

165.

Ele-ele no ao na

Drifting on his own

166.

Ho nai le naluk ka dale.

In the middle of long river.

167.

Tek lai na neu

To be scooped into the fishnet

168.

Ma suma seko na neu.

And lifted into the scoop-net.

169.

Feto Meti Balaha

The girl Tomorrow’s Tide

170.

Mo ina Tasi Dulupila

And the woman Dawning Sea

171.

Lai neni Suti Solo mai

Fish and take Suti Solo

172.

Ma seko neni Bina Bane mai.

And scoop and take Bina Bane.

173.

Suti de’a-de’a no na

Suti speaks with her

174.

Ma Bina kola-kola no na:

And Bina talks with her:

Figure 19: Woman with scoop-net

‘The girl, Tomorrow’s Tide

And the woman, Dawning Sea

Fish and take Suti Solo

And scoop and take Bina Bane.’

175.

‘O, feto mama-seko nga ko

‘Oh, girl, scoop me up

176.

Ma o ina mama-lai nga ko

And oh, woman, fish me up

177.

Muni au ia Suti Solo

Take me here, Suti Solo

178.

Ma mini au ia Bina Bane.

And take me here, Bina Bane.

179.

Tehu ma-sulu au

But shelter me

180.

Sama leo au ama bongi

Like my birth father

181.

Ma ma-hapa au

And protect me

182.

Deta leo au ina bongi.’

Like my birth mother.’

Meti Balaha and Tasi Dulupila carry the shells to their house, placing them at the timi post and lontar beam. At first, they feel satisfied and content but then realise the impermanence of their new location and seek again for another mother and father.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane are Placed on the Timi Post and Lontar Beam

183.

Dua leni nana mai

The two carry them forth

184.

Fua neu timi di

Place them on the timi post

185.

Fe Suti no timi di

Allocate Suti to the timi post

186.

Ma bati Bina no nata tuak.

And assign Bina to the lontar beam.

187.

Tesa teik timi di

Satisfied at the timi post

188.

Ma tama dale nata tuak.

And content at the lontar beam.

189.

Hika ho boe setele

Laughing out loud

190.

Ma eki ho boe latadale.

And shouting with joy.

191.

Dua de’a-de’a lo ao nala

The two talk to themselves

192.

Ma dua kola-kola lo ao nala:

And the two speak to themselves:

193.

‘Ita nai na-sulu uda te ka

‘We are sheltered from the piercing rain

194.

Ma ita nai nahapa ledo ha ka.’

And we are protected from the scorching sun.’

195.

Dua boe de’a-de’a lo ao nala

The two again talk to themselves

196.

Ma dua boe kola-kola lo ao nala.

And the two again speak to themselves.

197.

Lae: ‘Tesa teik.’

They say: ‘[We are] satisfied.’

198.

Ma lae: ‘Tama dale.’

And they say: ‘[We are] content.’

199.

Tehu noi-tao leo lia

Yet however one strives

200.

Ho tunu hai leo lia

There is difficulty there

201.

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

202.

Ho kelo kea leo na.

There is trouble there.

203.

Faik lia uda te timi di

One day the rain spears the timi post

204.

De sengi heni timi di

It snaps the timi post

205.

Ma tepok na ledo ha nata-tua

One time the sun heats the lontar beam

206.

De pulu heni nata tuak.

It splits the lontar beam.

207.

Suti de’a-de’a no ao na

Suti talks to himself

208.

Ho nasakedu no ao na

While sobbing to himself

209.

Ma Bina kola-kola no ao na

And Bina speaks to himself

210.

Ho namatani no ao na:

While crying to himself:

211.

‘Tean tak timi di

‘No certainty in the timi post

212.

Ma mepen tak nata tuak.

And nothing lasting in the lontar beam.

213.

Ta ina teu bea bali

No mother for us to go to

214.

Ma ta ama teu bea dei

No father for us to go to

215.

Mai teu teteni seluk ina bongi ka

Let us again request a birth mother

216.

Ma teu tatane seluk ama bongi ka.’

And let us again ask for a birth father.’

The shells go next to the lontar vat and rice basket but again realise the impermanence of their situation. (Lines 244 and 245 are translated as they were spoken. These lines, however, would make more sense if they were not in the negative. Without the negative ‘tak’, they might read: ‘Let us go where there is certainty and let us go where there is permanence.’)

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Shift to the Lontar Vat and the Rice Basket

217.

Dua dilu leu

The two go down

218.

Ho dilu leu bou tuak

Go down to the lontar vat

219.

Ma dua loe leu

And the two descend

220.

Ho loe leu neka hade.

Descend to the rice basket.

221.

Dua de’a-de’a lo ao nala

The two talk to themselves

222.

Ma dua kola-kola lo ao nala:

And the two speak to themselves:

223.

‘Tean nai bou tuak so

‘There is certainty in the lontar vat

224.

Ma mepen nai neka hade so.

And there is permanence in the rice basket.

225.

Lole tama-hena

Let us well hope for

226.

Neu ina bongi ka leo

A birth mother

227.

Ma lena taka-bani

And let us fondly expect

228.

Neu ama bongi ka leo.

A birth father.

229.

Tehu noi-tao leo lia

Yet however one strives

230.

Ho dadi neuk te’o leo

For someone to become a lineage aunt

231.

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

232.

Ho moli neuk ina ingu

For someone to be a clan mother

233.

Ho bengu bafa ka dadi

Word of mouth reports

234.

Ma lali ma ka moli

And wagging of tongues reveal that

235.

Soke sasau neka

Scooping and ladling the basket

236.

Soke sau basa neka hade

Scoops and ladles all the rice from the basket

237.

Ma kola lului tua

Drawing and draining the lontar syrup

238.

Lui heni basa bou tua.’

Drains all the lontar vat.’

239.

Suti nasakedu seluk

Suti sobs again

240.

Ma Bina namatani seluk.

And Bina cries again.

241.

‘Tean tak ma mepen tak.

‘No certainty and no permanence.

242.

He, tia Suti nga ko

He, my dear friend Suti

243.

Ma he, sena Bina nga ko,

And he, my dear companion Bina,

244.

Ita teu bea tean tak

Let us go where there is (no) certainty

245.

Ma ita teu bea mepen tak.

And let us go where there is (no) permanence.

246.

Teu teteni bea balik

Let us go ask for someone again

247.

Ho lia dadi neuk ina bongi

Who may become a birth mother

248.

Ma teu tatane bea dei

And let us go request someone once more

249.

Ho na moli neuk ama bongi.’

And who may be a birth father.’

In the next lines, the shells move out of the house and into the fields where the lontar palm is tapped and rice is harvested. The time for tapping and harvesting with its accompanying celebrations is brief and thus also impermanent so the shells are left to themselves to cry and sob.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Shift to the East Lontar Season and Savu Rice Harvest

250.

Teu tateni tua timu

Let us go ask the lontar-tapping season

251.

Ma teu leo tatane hade safu

And let us go request the Savu rice harvest

252.

Ho tua timu lesu ngi

Lontar palms put out their inflorescences

253.

Na dua ngata dadi tasafali ao

Let us two renew ourselves

254.

Ma hade safu tona kale

And Savu rice bends at the head

255.

Na dua ngata moli tasafali ao tala.’

Then let us restore ourselves.’

256.

Faik lia leu

One day they go to

257.

Tua timu lesu ngi

The budding lontar inflorescences

258.

Ho kiki tua la-dopo

Where the tapping of the cleaning brush

259.

Na dadi neuk koa tua

Gives rise to great celebration

260.

Ma nesu ingu langu

And mortar’s heavy pounding

261.

Ho manu ingu na

With its squabbling chicken

262.

Dadi neu ngia sina.

Gives rise to great exuberance.

263.

Luku lo nesu ingu

Squatting with the great mortar

264.

Ma sake lo tua timu

And snuggling with the lontar tapping

265.

Hika ho setele

Laughing out loud

266.

Ma eki ho latadale.

And shouting with joy.

267.

Lae: ‘Tean liak so.’

They say: ‘Something certain is here.’

268.

Ma lae: ‘Mepen liak na so.’

And they say: ‘Something lasting is here.’

269.

Tehu ledok esa nai lia

But then at one time

270.

Na lengu heni nesu ingu

The great mortar is cast aside

271.

Ma faik esa nai na

And on one day

272.

Na hulu heni tua timu

The lontar season comes to an end

273.

Hu uda te tua timu

Because the rain spears the lontar tapping

274.

Na tua lama loe suma.

The lontar baskets are lowered.

275.

Te tean tak ma mepen tak.

Nothing certain and nothing permanent.

276.

Dua boe lasakedu

The two sob again

277.

Ma dua boe lamatani.

And the two cry again.

The shells move further afield to find a place with mountain nitas tree and the field delas tree. Both are large trees that have a marked flowering season. They join with these trees but when the rain puts an end to their flowering period, the shells are left to themselves as orphan and widow.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Move to the Mountain Nitas Tree and the Field Delas Tree

278.

Dua leu lateteni seluk

The two go in search again

279.

Lateni neuk nita lete

In search of the mountain nitas tree

280.

Ma dua leu latane seluk

And the two go in quest again

281.

Latane neuk dela mo.

In quest of the open field delas tree.

282.

Leu dei,

They go,

283.

Laneta lo nita lete

They encounter the nitas of the mountain

284.

Nita lete nabuna

The mountain nitas is in bloom

285.

Ma latonggo lo dela mo,

And they meet the open field delas,

286.

Dela mo napena

The delas is flowering

287.

Dadi latafali ao na

Renewing itself

288.

Ma moli laleo ao na.

And restoring itself.

289.

Dadi leu koa tua

These things give rise to great celebration

290.

Ma moli leu ngia sina.

And give forth great exuberance.

291.

Sake lo nita lete

They snuggle up to the mountain nitas

292.

Ho lo nita lete buna na

And with the blossoms of the mountain nitas

293.

Ma luku lo dela mo

And they squat with the field delas

294.

Ho lo dela mo pena na

And with the field delas’s flowers

295.

Hika ho setele

Laughing loudly

296.

Ma eki ho latadale.

And shouting for joy.

297.

‘Tia Suti nga ko

‘My friend, Suti

298.

Ma sena Bina nga ko

And my companion, Bina

299.

Tean tak nai ia

There is nothing certain here

300.

Ma mepen tak nai ia.’

And there is nothing lasting here.’

301.

Tehu noi-tao leo lia

Yet however one strives

302.

Ho tunu-hai leo lia

There is difficulty there

303.

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

304.

Ho kelo-kea leo na.

There is trouble there.

305.

Tean bei tak

There is yet nothing certain

306.

Ma mepen bei tak.

And there is yet nothing permanent.

307.

Faik lia timu lasa-lua dulu

One day the monsoon widens in the east

308.

Ma ledok na fa lasa-fali langa.

One time the west winds return to the head.

309.

Ani dulu fifiu

The east wind blows

310.

Lefa heni nita bunan

Letting drop the nitas blossoms

311.

Ma uda te dela pena

And the rains strike the delas flowers

312.

Kono heni dela pena.

Letting fall the delas flowers.

313.

Tehu be ana ma

But what of the orphan

314.

Ho ana ma lasakedu lo ao

The orphan sobs with himself

315.

Be ina falu

What of the widow

316.

Ho falu ina lamatani lo ao na.

The widow cries with herself.

317.

Dua de’a-de’a lo ao na

The two talk to each other

318.

Ma dua kola-kola lo ao na:

And the two speak to each other:

319.

‘Tean tak nita lete

‘No certainty with the mountain nitas tree

320.

Ma mepen tak dela mo.’

No permanence with the field delas tree.’

The shells move on again, this time to the pigeon pea garden and cotton field, whose harvest is late in season and affected by the wind and rain, leaving them alone.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Shift to the Pigeon Pea Garden and the Cotton Field

321.

Faik lia lae:

One day they say:

322.

Dua leu teteni leo

The two go to seek

323.

Ma ledok na lae:

And one time they say:

324.

Dua leu tatane leo

The two go to quest

325.

Leu de tepa loi tuli tini

They go to meet the pigeon pea garden

326.

Ma kala loi kaba osi

And to encounter the cotton field

327.

De luku lo kaba osi pena

Snuggling with the cotton field boll

328.

Ma sake lo tuli tini buna.

And squatting with pigeon pea garden flowers.

329.

Hika ho setele

They laugh out loud

330.

Ma eki ho latadale

And shout with joy

331.

Luku lo kaba osi

Snuggling in the cotton field

332.

Ma latadale neu tuli tini.

And happy in the pigeon pea garden.

333.

Tehu bei tean tak

But there is yet no certainty

334.

Ma bei mepen tak.

And yet no permanence.

335.

Faik lia uda te tuli tini

One day the rain strikes the pigeon pea garden

336.

Ma ledok na ani fiu kaba osi

One time the wind blows the cotton field

337.

Kono heni tuli buna

Letting fall the pigeon pea flowers

338.

Ma lapu heni kaba pena.

And lifting away the cotton bolls.

Suti Solo do Bina Bane come to recognise the uncertainty and impermanence of the world. They recognise that the human condition is to be orphaned and widowed. They resolve therefore to return to where they began at East Estuary and Headland River and there follow the Pandanus River and the Jasmine Forest.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Follow Pandanus River Road and Jasmine Forest Path

339.

Dua de’a-de’a lo ao na

The two talk with each other

340.

Ma dua kola-kola lo ao na:

And the two speak with each other:

341.

‘Teu teteni ina bongik ka leo

‘Let us go in search of a birth mother

342.

Te tean tak dae bafok

For there is no certainty on earth

343.

Ma teu tatane ama bongik ka leo

Let us go in quest of a birth father

344.

Te mepen tak batu poik ka.

For there is no permanence in the world.

345.

Teu tatane

Let us go in search

346.

Teu bea o tean tak

Let us go where there is no certainty

347.

Ma teu teteni

And let us go in quest

348.

Teu bea o mepen tak.

Let us go where there is no permanence.

349.

Ita dua dadi ana ma

Let us two become orphaned

350.

Ho ana ma Le Lai

With the orphan Le Lai

351.

Tasakedu to ao tala

That we may sob with each other

352.

Ita dua dadi falu ina

Let us two become widowed

353.

Ho falu ina Oe Bolo

With the widow Oe Bolo

354.

Tamatani to ao tala

That we may cry with each other

355.

Tasakedu to ao tala

Let us sob with each other

356.

Ho nai Dulu Oli

In Dulu Oli

357.

Ma tamatani to ao tala

And let us cry with each other

358.

Ho nai Lange Le.

In Langa Le.

359.

Au ia, ana mak Suti Solo

Here I am, the orphan Suti Solo

360.

Ma au ia, falu ina Bina Bane.

And here I am, the widow Bina Bane.

361.

Falu ina ko fali

I am a widow going back

362.

Ma ana ma ko tulek.

And an orphan returning.

363.

De ana ma teteni

The orphan quests

364.

Ho Suti Solo mu teteni

Suti Solo, you go in quest

365.

Ma falu ina tatane

And the widow searches

366.

Ho Bina Bane mu matane

Bina Bane, you go in search

367.

Teteni Hena Le

In quest of Hena Le [Pandanus River]

368.

Ho tabu tunga Hena Le

Treading along Hena Le

369.

Ma tatane I Lasi

In search of I Lasi [Jasmine Forest]

370.

Ho nama tunga I Lasi enok.

Following the I Lasi path.

371.

Nama osok maketu na

Hold on without letting go

372.

Ma molo Hena Le eno

And step on the Pandanus River road

373.

Molo osok mabasan.

Step along without stopping.

374.

Teteni Hena Le eno

Seek the Pandanus River path

375.

Ma tatane I Lasi dala

And quest for Jasmine Forest road

376.

Ho kelak molo tunga Hena Le enon

To step along Hena Le’s path

377.

Ma nama tunga I Lasi dala.

And follow along I Lasi’s road.

The shells arrive at East Estuary and Headland River and then begin to follow the steps and ladder that lead up the Pandanus River road and Jasmine Forest path.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Arrive at East Estuary and Headland River

378.

Ita dua tena Dulu Oli

So that we two arrive at Dulu Oli

379.

Ma ita dua monu Langa Le

And we two enter Langa Le

380.

Fali seluk Dulu Oli

Come back again to Dulu Oli

381.

Ma tulek seluk Langa Le.

And return again to Langa Le.

382.

Teu dulu

Let us go east

383.

Lada edak losa nateke na

The ladder leads upward

384.

Ma teu langa

Let us go to the head

385.

Ho nasalai kakae losa nabasan

The steps lead to the top

386.

Molo tunga Hena Le eno

Step along the Pandanus River road

387.

Ma nama tunga I Lasi longe

And follow along the Jasmine Forest path

388.

Molo na tak nabasa na

Step upward without stopping

389.

Ma nama na tak naketu na.’

Hold on without ending.’

390.

De’a-de’a lo aon na

They talk to themselves

391.

Ma kola-kola lo ao na.

And they speak to themselves.

This is a symbolic return: a return to mother and father, who are represented by the Nilu Neo tree and the Ko Nau tree, the same two trees—the tamarind (Tamarindus indica) and the bidara or Indian plum tree (Ziziphus mauritana)—that Suti Solo and Bina Bane find shelter with in Ande Ruy’s recitation from Ringgou.

Suti Solo and Bina Bane Come to Rest at the Nilu Neo Tree and the Ko Nau Tree

392.

‘Fali seluk leo ina bongi ka teu

‘Going back to the birth mother, we go

393.

Ma tulek seluk leo ama bongi ka teu.

Returning to the birth father, we go.

394.

Ina bongi lia Nilu Neo

To the birth mother, Nilu Neo

395.

Ma ama bongi lia Ko Nau.

And to the birth father, Ko Nau.

396.

Nai tema sio dei

In the fullness of nine

397.

Ma nai bate falu dei

And in the abundance of eight

398.

Ko Nau naboa nai na

The Ko Nau fruits there

399.

Ma Nilu Neo napetu nai na

And the Nilu Neo sprouts there

400.

Teu ho ketu kolu

Let us go to pick and pluck

401.

Ho tesa teik nai na

Inner satisfaction is there

402.

Ma teu ho hele hao

And let us go to choose and eat

403.

Ho tama dale nai na

Heartfelt contentment is there

404.

Ho kelak losa do na neu

That goes on forever

405.

Ma kelak sekunete na neu.

And that does not end.

Kornalius Medah’s Recurrent Use of Refrain

No less than Ande Ruy, Kornalius Medah relies on the use of a distinctive refrain and counter-refrain to move his recitation forward. His use of one particular refrain based on the dyadic set tean//mepen is emphatic. This set is used no less than 20 times in the course of the recitation: positively to express Suti Solo and Bina Bane’s vain hope and more frequently to announce the failure of all such hopes.

The dyadic set tean//mepen is difficult to translate. It has a concrete and specific sense while connoting a more general quality or condition of being. Tea(n) can mean ‘hard, strong, firm’ and most frequently applies to the hard, inner core of a tree; mepen (seemingly related to the verb nepen) means ‘to hold tight, to grip, to fix’. Together the set denotes what is ‘hard’ and ‘held tight’ and, by extension, what is ‘certain and lasting’. This set is, in some ways, the equivalent in Bilba’s ritual language to the recurrent dyadic set used in Termanu based on tetu//tema.

Thus, early in the recitation (lines 18–19), Kornalius Medah sets the scene for the departure of the shells from Dulu Oli//Langa Le:

Te hu tean tak Dulu Olin

Yet nothing is certain at Dulu Oli

Ma mepen tak Langa Len.

And nothing is lasting at Langa Len.

A more literal translation might be: ‘But nothing holds firm at Dulu Oli and nothing holds tight in Langa Len.’

Kornalius used this set in separate lines and, often as well, in single lines. Thus, in lines 54, 241 and 275, the set tean//mepen is used in a single line:

Tean o tak ma mepen o tak.

Nothing is certain and nothing permanent.

Combined with this steady refrain is a further equally distinct and idiomatically difficult set of lines. These lines in their full form recur six times (lines 31–34, 107–10, 141–44 and 301–04), each time following a phrasing of the major refrain:

Tehu noi-tao leo lia

Yet however one strives

Ho tunu-hai leo lia

There is trouble there

Ma sanga-tao leo na

And however one seeks

Ho kelo-kea leo na.

There is difficulty there.

They also appear in truncated form as, for example, in lines 75/77 and 128/130:

Tehu noi-tao leo lia …

Yet however one strives …

Ma sanga-tao leo na.

And however one seeks.

This refrain is composed of the double dyadic sets noi-tao//sanga-tao and kelo-kea//tunu-hai. Noi-tao//sanga-tao indicates a ‘striving, struggling or searching’. In Termanu, the near equivalent combines the terms sanga//tunga. Kelo-kea//tunu-hai, on the other hand, connotes ‘difficulties, problems, setbacks’. Its closest equivalent in Termanu is toa//pia.

The use of these particular dyadic sets serves as Kornalius Medah’s key signature, and the interweaving of complementary refrains is an expression of his mastery of Bilba dialect.

An Analysis of Kornalius Medah’s Ritual Language Usage

This recitation by Kornalius Medah, in Bilba dialect, has 405 lines and is composed of 107 dyadic sets. Bilba’s dialect belongs to Dialect Area II, which falls between Ringgou and Landu in the east and Korbaffo and Termanu in the central-west of Rote. As a dialect, it is closer to the language of Termanu than to the language of Ringgou. For Termanu speakers, it presents less of a challenge than Ringgou’s dialect.

The majority of the dyadic sets in Bilba’s ritual language are sets shared through most of the island. Some examples of sets that are identical to those in Termanu are the following: 1) bafa//ma (‘mouth’//‘tongue’); 2) dela//nita (‘delas tree, Erythina spp.’//‘nitas tree, Sterculia foetida’); 3) deta//sama (‘like’//‘as’); 4) eki//hika (‘to scream, shout’//‘to laugh’); 5) -hapa//-sulu (‘to protect’//‘to shelter’); 6) loak//naluk (‘broad’//‘long’); 7) liun//sain (‘ocean’//‘sea’); 8) luli//sangu (‘storm’//‘cyclone’); 9) li//nafa (‘wave’//‘wave crest’); 10) molo//tabu (‘step’//‘tread’).

There are, however, a number of sound changes that distinguish Bilba’s dialect from Termanu’s. Most notably, initial ‘nd’ in Termanu becomes ‘l’ in Bilba (as opposed to ‘r’ in Ringgou). Similarly, initial ‘ngg’ in Termanu becomes ‘ng’ in Bilba (as opposed to ‘k’ in Ringgou). Medial ‘d’ in Termanu becomes ‘nd’ in Bilba. These sound changes yield the following transformations of shared dyadic sets:

Table 15: Termanu–Bilba–Ringgou Dialect Comparisons

Termanu

Bilba

Ringgou

Gloss

na//ndia

na//lia

na//ria

‘this’//‘that’

ndui//sau

lui//sau

rui//sau

‘to ladle’//‘to scoop out’

ndai//seko

lai//seko

rai//se’o

‘to scoop’//‘to net-fish’

ndano//toko

lano//toko

rano//to’o

‘to throw’//‘to thrust’

-nggeli//-tulek

-ngeli//-tulek

‘to rage’//‘to heave’

-kedu//-tani

-kendu//-tani

-edu//-tani

‘to sob’//‘to weep’

Bilba has a range of specific sets with terms that distinguish these sets from those of Termanu and Ringgou or Landu. For example, Bilba has a different set of terms for house post and beam (nata-tuak//timi-di) than Landu (or Ringgou) (balo-tua//timi-di) or Termanu (lungu-tua//timi-di). Similarly, Bilba has the set hamu-le//tele-tasi, whereas Landu has hambau//tere-tasi. The verbs teteni//tatane (‘to seek’//‘to quest’) are distinctive in their use in Bilba dialect.

There are other distinctive usages. For example, in lines 38–39:

Faik lia luli dulu fafae na

One day a storm arises in the waking east

Ma ledok na sangu langa titipa na.

And at one time a cyclone blows at the thrusting head.

The density of these lines is notable. Whereas generally poetic lines may contain three or four dyadic sets, these lines contain five dyadic sets: faik//ledo, lia//na, luli//sangu, dulu//langa and fae//tipa, which occurs in reduplicated form as fafae//titipa. Although analysable in separable sets, the combination dulu fafae//langa titipa constitutes a formula. Fae as a verb means to ‘to shake, to wake’, while the verb tipa means ‘to push, to shove’. When these verbs with similar meanings are applied to east//head, they describe an early dawning, an opening to the east. This same formula is repeated in lines 79–80 when a storm again arises in the east:

Faik lia luli dulu fafae seluk

One day a storm arises again in the waking east

Ma ledok na sangu langa titipa seluk.

And at one time a cyclone blows again at the thrusting head.

Another idiomatic expression occurs (in singular format using neu) in lines 259/262 and again (in plural format using leu) in lines 289–90:

(1)

Na dadi neuk koa tua

Gives rise to great celebration

Dadi neu ngia sina.

Gives rise to great exuberance.

(2)

Dadi leu koa tua

These things give rise to great celebration

Ma moli leu ngia sina.

And give forth great exuberance.

The combination of koa tua//ngia sina in Bilba signifies a ‘celebration, rejoicing, a show of exuberance’. However, if translated literally, this combination of terms means ‘old, large friarbird’//‘Chinese parrot’. This particular idiomatic usage is not an expression used (or possibly even understood) in Termanu.

Kornalius Medah’s Recitation as a Christian Parable

With its recurrent refrains, the narrative progression of Kornalius Medah’s recitation is relatively clear and easy to follow. Its intent, however, may be more difficult to fathom. Unlike some versions of Suti Solo do Bina Bane, this version is not revelatory: it does not link the shells’ journey to specific events in any origin chants. Instead its insistent theme focuses on the uncertainty, impermanence and transitory nature of life.

As is emphatically stated in lines 342/344 towards the end of the recitation:

Te tean tak dae bafok

For there is no certainty on earth

Te mepen tak batu poik ka.

For there is no permanence in the world.

Like numerous other mortuary chants, this recitation reiterates a basic Rotenese conception of the human condition: that all human beings in the world are ultimately like orphans and widows. However they may live, they are born and die as widows and orphans.

As the shells prepare to embark on the Pandanus River road and Jasmine Forest path, they enunciate this fundamental view of themselves:

‘Au ia, ana mak Suti Solo

‘Here I am, the orphan Suti Solo

Ma au ia, falu ina Bina Bane.

And here I am, the widow Bina Bane.

Falu ina ko fali

I am a widow going back

Ma ana ma ko tulek.’

And an orphan returning.’

This view of the human condition is explicitly voiced in some of the oldest and most traditional mortuary chants from Rote (see Fox 1988: 161–201, particularly pp. 166–69), but it can also be tinged, in various chants, with clear Christian sentiments. Kornalius Medah’s recitation offers hints of these Christian sentiments in its use of certain key words. At the beginning of the recitation (lines 10–11), it is announced that:

Hu no tepok lia Suti natane sodak ka

At that time Suti seeks well-being

Ma lelek na Bina teteni molek ka.

And at the moment Bina asks for peace.

The dyadic set soda//mole, drawn from the vocabulary of the Christian canon, implies a state of heavenly grace. These paired terms, Soda-Molek, are used as a Christian greeting and their use in this context, at the outset of the recitation, signals the potential direction for the recitation.

The return to East Estuary and Headland River and the ascent along the Pandanus River road and Jasmine Forest path to the two prolific fruiting trees, the Ko Nau and the Nilu Neo, can be interpreted as a Christian parable that traces a path from birth to death.


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