51. Black Song & Dance of the Tropics, Book III: Melanesia & Greater Melanesia - < pg. 100 > I here present my versification of a combination of events described in the Yaulabuta, and a shipwreck incident described by Malinowski in his Argonauts of the West Pacific. All events contained therein were associated with kula trade expeditions (for which see appendix entry # 11), where Milne Bay islanders trade arm-shells (which travel in a counter clock-wise direction) for necklaces (which travel in a clockwise direction). The events occurring in my versification, below, are believed to be true accounts of actual events. Taking the place of the Kiriwina bard, I (using the name Waburi) place myself within the story line as the narrator [See author dressed as a Trobriand islander in photo #6].


One day as I was eating fish,

Kailaga summoned me

And asked that I accompany him

Upon the Coral Sea.


His clansmen were assembled and

The plans already made

To leave the following morning to

Engage in kula trade.


And though I feared the trip would bring

Great sorrow to us all,

In Trobriand one can’t refuse

To heed a chieftain's call.


If to encourage tourism

To this sea was my wish,

I would speak of lovely reefs

And multi-colored fish.


I'd only speak of jumping fish

And seas of crystal blue;

But if I just spoke of these things

I'd be deceiving you.


The dangers of the ocean here

Can chill a brave man's bones.

Among the most horrific are

The dreaded living stones


That grab a boat and hold it till

Its captain pays their price.

A boy adorned, thrown overboard,

Serves as a sacrifice.


52 . Mallar Kambam (An excerpt from Hanuman’s Warriors) < 230 > During the Silambam Tournament near Nagarkoil in 2004, I gained an initial exposure to what was once known as valluku maram (“slippery pole”) or mallar kambam ( but better known as malkhamb / mallakhamb / malkham elsewhere in India) - an amazing type of gymnastics that combines pole-climbing with acrobatics and yoga. At that time, R. Padmanabhan informed me that, though not a “true martial art per se,” the discipline formed part of the training exercises of traditional martial artists and soldiers in ancient Tamil Nadu, just as club-swinging, even today, constitutes part of a traditional wrestler’s training. It thus, in my view, is so interrelated with martial arts that it merits a place here as “the fourth of Hanuman’s five heads.”

Indeed, mallar kambam (the Tamil word for the art), the techniques of which are said to have been utilized by Hanuman’s monkey army in the Ramayana epic, was (in ancient times) part and parcel of a long training program which young men underwent to not only strengthen their muscles; but also to further develop their agility, balance, suppleness, co-ordination, body-control, physical fitness and daring.

Though mallar kambam (unlike Silambam) has no man to man combat component, it is nevertheless a martial experience in that the practitioners (occasionally armed with weapons, for which see further) are pitted against the limits of their own bodies in contact with a pole or rope. Like Kavadee (procession of pain), Thimeethi (fire-walking), Kathi Poosai (sword-climbing) and Jalli-kattu (bull-domination), the practitioner must reach into the depths of his very soul to be able to successfully perform the daring feats required of him.

Upon my return to Tamil Nadu in 2006, I decided to have a thorough look at this activity and was advised to travel to Villupuram, the Headquarters of the State Mallakhamb Association, which is not only responsible for this discipline but also silambam and gymnastics as well ( see Association flyer containing their logo at the top of the next page).

During an interview in the Association’s Office, Mr. Ulaga Durai, a retired Physical Education teacher and former practitioner of the art said (in response to my many questions):

My name is Ulaga Durai. I am the Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Mallakhamb Association and am responsible for silambam, gymnastics and volleyball as well.

I was born on July 25, 1940 in Turu Kovilur (Villupuram District) and am the father of two daughters and a son. By profession I was a physical education teacher and served in that capacity for 40 years in various government schools working with youths aged 6 through 18.

I retired from school teaching in 1999 and am presently working as a full time coach of mallakhamb, gymnastics, silambam and volleyball and conduct nearly all of my classes in the Municipal Park of Villupuram. I also work with both school and private teams.

With regards to mallakhamb, I perfected my knowledge of it at the age of 18 while studying in Marathi at the Physical Education College in Kwayamuthur; but (at my present age) I can now only perform the simpler moves.

My son, Senthil, however, started learning at the age of 7 and placed 2 nd in the National Mallakhamb competition three years in a row (i.e. in Punjab, Mumbai, and Maharashtra). In Maharastra, the Tamil Nadu team also placed second.

When asked about the composition of his team, Ulaga Durai (pictured below in the Association Office during the interview) replied: … etc.

53 . Adventures of Waburi II: Vanuatu < (Origin of Death) > This tale from the island of Malekula was told to me by Nathanial Tagar a resident of Motalava island (for which see glossary) who served as my host on a brief visit there.


Why is it that all of us,

With passing time, grow old?

Why do strong limbs weaken

And passion’s flame grow cold?

Why does our smooth skin wrinkle?

Why does one’s beauty fade?

Why can’t one’s life be permanent

And lasting just like jade?


The reason why we can’t restore

Our youth when we grow old,

In this tale from Malekula,

To you I’ll now unfold.

The reason why we can’t make straight

A back that’s curved with time,

Will be explained to you in full

In this precocious rhyme.


In the land of Malekula

Was a river near a bay,

Where those wishing to restore their youth

Could change their skins, they say.

By bathing in the Naha,

An old and wrinkled man

Would come out looking like a youth

Young, handsome, strong and tan.


And thus it was when winter came,

With bathing came the spring;

The flame of youth would upwards soar

Like an eagle on the wing.

In those days when men grew old

They’d go and change their skin.

And death would never come, for they

Got back their youth again.


But one day when a grandma

54. Hanuman’s Warriors < pg. 61 > One of the objectives ofmy journey to India (from November 13, 2003 to February 16, 2004) was to discover as much as I could about “Dravidian Martial Arts” of Tamil Nadu and relay that information to readers of my Black Martial Arts Series. In 2005, as a result of that voyage and of a prior journey to Mauritius, I published the fifth volume of the series ( BMA V: Dravidian Deeds of Daring) which dealt with the Tamil arts of Jalli-Kattu (bull-catching), Silambam (stick-fighting), Kalagu Maram Yettum (aerial acrobatics), Kavadee (ritual procession of painless pain), Theemithi (fire-walking) and Kathi Poosai (sword-climbing).

In an effort to acquire additional knowledge from other geographic locations, I undertook a second journey to India (from January 7 to March 20, 2006) and traveled to: (1) Karnataka (to observe Dravidian wrestling); (2) Kerala (to observe Kalaripayyat); and (3) Tamil Nadu (to continue my investigation of Silambam as well as other associated arts to which I was not yet sufficiently exposed).

As a result of this second 10-week sojourn in India, I: (1) acquired a great deal of information about the Southern and Northern forms of Kalaripayyat; (2) expanded my knowledge of Silambam (stick-fighting) and Mallakhamb (aerial acrobatics); and (3) discovered a new martial game known as Kabaddi.. Moreover, while in Tamil Nadu, I participated in Simashan Academy’s filming of its first DVD dealing with Silambam and decided to make a copy of it and the newly acquired information available in a new publication entitled “Hanuman’s Warriors.”

his present volume, will take the reader on a five-pronged journey of discovery to Tamil Nadu and Southern Kerala to: (1) learn more about the amazing art of silambam in general, and female participation in particular; (2) observe the southernkalari combat art techniques of Tamil Nadu and Southern Kerala; (3) gain exposure to the Northern style of Kalaripayyat as practiced in Trivandrum; (4) see the amazing Mallakhamb performers of Villupuram; and (5) be introduced to a popular martial game known as saragudu in Tamil Nadu and kabbadi, elsewhere in India. I us

55. Tales of Mouse Deer -

There was a single tiger though
Who Mouse Deer’s peace defied;
It threatened to eat what it pleased
And would not be denied.

It dared anyone to stop it
From eating up the goats
For it was born a tiger true
And one not fed on oats.

Mouse Deer approached that tiger
Saying: “You are strong ‘tis true;
But within this forest
There is one fiercer than you.

And if you can defeat it,
You can eat what you wish;
But if you fail to do so
You will become its dish.

The rogue Tiger responded
Where is this rival chap?
For I shall surely kill it
Before I take another nap.”

It thought it was invincible,
And could do anything.
Of all the forest creatures;
It was surely Lord and King.

Mouse Deer then led that tiger
To a well with water clear;
And said unto that Tiger:
Your rival lives down there.”

The Tiger looked into the well
And its reflection saw.
Then threatened the reflection
By raising high a paw.

The image in the water
Raised high a paw as well;
And the tiger uttered a loud roar
That shook the forest bell.

The Tiger stared down at its image
And roared menacingly.
The tiger’s echo answered it
With greater majesty.

The tiger then showed its sharp teeth
And shook its hoary head.
The image mimicked Tiger’s moves
Now what more can be said?

The angry tiger jumped to meet
Its image in that well;
In doing this the Tiger rogue
Into that deep well fell.

It struggled in that watery hole
And fiercely thrashed about;
But no matter what it did
It could not get out.

It wanted to kill Mouse Deer
But could not do a thing.
Thus was drowned the tiger rogue
That thought it would be King.

56. Tales of Zopilote –  

Once a squirrel, in search of food,
Stopped to take a rest.
As it reclined, beneath a tree
It saw a large dove’s nest.

And to the mother dove it said:
“Don’t you feel the heat?
You are indeed in danger,
Lest you fly to a retreat.

This heat is the precursor
Of a coming hurricane;
You’d better seek a refuge!
To stay here is insane!”

The dove said: “Yes, I feel the heat;
But what’ll my husband say?
I must stay and guard my eggs
I can’t just fly away.”

Your un-hatched eggs will not be harmed;
But if you stay you’ll die.
There is a cave not far from here
So to it quickly fly!

If you leave your nest, your spouse
Will surely, you forgive.
And I will promptly join you there
For I, too, want to live.

Fly quickly dove, your husband
Will surely join you there;
The hard shells will protect your eggs
You have nothing to fear.”

And so that dove flew to the cave
That lay just to the west.
In her fright to save her life
She left her precious nest.

Then that squirrel scaled the tree,
With its four nimble legs,
And when it reached the nest consumed
That dove’s abandoned eggs.

After the storm, the Dove returned
And sought her eggs in vain.
And from that day the mother dove
Sings this sad refrain:

Ay ay cut tuu tuu sen
I mourn my family.
Ay ay cut tuu tuu sen
The Squirrel lied to me.

The squirrel is a trickster;
But this I failed to see.
Ay ay cut tuu tuu sen
It took my eggs from me.”

57. Annotated Wakar Hausa –  

Hausawa duka kowa,
Harshenmu na fa da yalwa,
Ga nahwu mai ko yawa,
Ya harsuna masu yawa
Na duniya ita Hausa.

Hausa brothers, all of you,
Hearken to these words so true!
Hausa's grammar's so complete
Other tongues can not compete
With our splendid Hausa.

Harshen da bashi da tsauri,
Ba dauri da sasari,
Koko muce kamar mari,
Sauki gareshi kun kari,
Harshenmu harshen Hausa.

The Hausa language boasts of both
Great beauty and unstunted growth;
A rhythmic pace, light, free, unbound,
No kinks or fetters can be found
Impeding the gait of Hausa.

Kadda mu yarda ya datse,
Balle mubarshi ya waste,
Mu himmatashi ya batse,
In muka barshi da rotse,
Mu cuci harshen Hausa.

Spur Hausa on! Don't hold the reins,
Much less, let her be bound in chains!
And let us in the saddle strain
So her full glory she'll obtain!
Else we have cheated Hausa.

Shi asalinshi ku gane,
Harshen na larabcine,
Bayajida to shine,
Yazo da hausa mutane,
Harshe Cikakke Hausa.

O understand her pedigree!
A mare of noble birth is she,
For mounted on her in the chase,
Bayajida did found our race
And blessed us all with Hausa.

In this my verse, I shall not miss
To stir your noble consciences
To act and make a firm resolve,
Whatever cost it may involve,
To compose books in Hausa.

The ancient wisdom of our tongue,
Let us transmit it to our young!
If we refuse this sacred task,
How can they preserve, I ask
Our glorious native Hausa.

For joking or for insults vile,
For speechmaking, observe our guile!
With our riddles and proverbs,
We twist the meaning of the words
To get a pun in Hausa.

To write Boko or Ajami
Hausa has flexibility.
The cursive script with letters round
Exudes and pulsates with the sound
And gives meaning in Hausa.

58. - In Search of the Vanaras [Excerpt] – The Negrito groups of the Andaman Islands [S] – “the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa and the Sentinelese … are communities that have lived and flourished here for at least 20,000 years, but the end could well be round the corner. Just 150 years ago the population of the tribal communities was estimated to be at least 5,000. Today, however, while the population of the Andaman and Nicobar islands has risen to about 4 lakhs [one lakh = 100,000], the population of all these four communities put together is not more than a mere 500.” Moreover, only [W] “four of the dozen tribes that once inhabited the island survive.”

The census of 1901 [S] estimated the Onge population to be 601. We note here that according to [V] the Negritos are descendents of the early Paleolithic colonizers of Southeast Asia; whereas the Nicobarese, in contrast, “have genetic affinities to groups widely distributed throughout Asia today and presumably descended from Neolithic agriculturists.”

Genetic analysis suggests [W] that (according to Dr. Underhill) “there were at least two separate emigrations of modern humans from Africa. Both probably left northeast Africa by boat 40,000 or 50,000 years ago [but according to V, during the last ice age from 60,000 to 100,00 years ago] and pushed slowly along the coastlines of the Arabian peninsula and India. No archaeological record of these epic journeys has been found, perhaps because the world’s oceans were 120 meters lower during the last ice age and the evidence of early human passage is under water. One group of emigrants that acquired the Marker 174 mutation reached Southeast Asia, including the Andaman Islands, and then moved inland and north to Japan, in Dr. Underhill’s reconstruction. A second group, carrying the Marker RPS4Y, took a different fork in Southeast Asia, continuing south toward Australia.”

59. Black Song & Dance of the Tropics IV: Africa < pg. 32 > The second dance troupe included in this presentation is Landelani, led by Bonginkosi. I paid a visit to their home village and asked their leader (Bonginkosi) to describe the group. In response he said:

I started out in the Hlanganani group with my cousin Zakhele (leader of the Vukahambe Afrika) and founded my first dance troupe Landelani I in 1995. Landelani means "Observe or Follow Your Culture". Those kids are big now and many of them have gone their way. I founded Landelani II herein Mgai village in August 2000 with 8 girls and 10 boys ranging in age from 11 to 18. They are all students here in Mgai and we practice in the Community Hall.

We raise money to buy uniforms by giving performances. When you saw us in Durban, we were there for 8 days and our average earning was R300 to R400 a day. We lost a contract, however, to perform for R700 a day for 4 days, because the children's parents were anxious to have them home for the Christmas Holidays. We have to get a lot of money because we need better outfits and I want to take the group to the Grahamstown festival on July 1st, 2001.

The group has only been practicing for 6 months, but they already know several songs and dances and a skit. Our presentations can run for 2 hours, but we make them shorter when circumstances dictate.

Bonga, there, is a 13 year old who plays Naughty Boy in the skit about primary school education in rural Zululand; and Bangumusa, who is 14, plays the teacher. In this Zulu dramatization the children simply repeat what the teacher says without having the slightest notion of what they are saying.

The "teacher" says for example: "Wena mfana, woza la! Wena mfana tana A!" ("You, boy, come here! You, boy, say A") and the child stands up and repeats "You boy come here! You boy say A".

Our entire repertoire is in the Zulu language. Even today in the Zulu hinterland children do not do as well as their urban counterparts on examinations because they do not speak English well enough and have very little opportunity to practice it at home.

Indeed, if it weren't for Bonginkosi's English and my rudimentary knowledge of Zulu, I would never have been able to even communicate with the children in the dance troupe.

Dr. Ngubane was apparently 100% correct in saying that these children "will never have an equal shot at education if the Zulu language is not used as the medium of instruction at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels". Bonginkosi continued saying:

Our musical instrumentation consists of 6 drums and a tambourine and our song and dance routines include:

(1) the gum boot dance [See photo #2] in which various sequences of synchronized movements result in a rhythmic sound produced by the stamping of feet and slapping of boots;

(2) the Zulu dance with sticks [See photo #26 & 27];

(3) African dances like "Amasiko Alahlekile" [See photo #28 & 29]; and

(4) the isiBacha (stomp dance).

With respect to the routines performed by the group we have: (1) "Sibabonile" ("We have seen them") which is a dialogue followed by traditional Zulu dances and singing; (2) "Thula Umamele" ("Be Quiet and Listen") which incorporates traditional Zulu Dance and Singing; (3) "Yeyayeyi Ninani Bogxane" - a poetic recitation dealing with old Zulu culture and tradition; (4) "Landelani Amasiko" - a comedy skit dealing with primary school education in a rural village; (5) "Buyelani Emosikwenu" ("Return to Your Roots") which is an individual stomp dance performance; (6) "Afrika Vuka" ("Wake Up Africa") - which contains traditional Zulu dance and song calling upon all of us to return to our African roots; and (7) "We Muntu Ophilayo" - a moving song and choreography about the Aids tragedy .

The words to that sad song (composed by Bonginkosi) with my English translation is as follows:

Wemuntu ophilayo uyabona

Nasi sifo siqedilizwe.

Siququda uzwe lonke.

Siququda umAfrik'AFrica.

Sokwenzenjani maAfrika?

Masibambane sibemunye!

Singalahli amasiko.

Singalahli amasiko ethu.

People who are alive and healthy see!

Here is a disease finishing the world.

The disease is killing all people slowly.

It is slowly killing Africa.

What can we Africans do?

Let us come together!

We must not abandon traditions.

We must not abandon our traditions.

60. Tales of Mouse Deer

Mouse Deer & Tiger
The King’s Belt

With no more fear of crocodile
Mouse Deer lay down to rest.
Beneath the shade of a mango tree,
Was the spot that it loved best.

It had neither thirst nor hunger
For the winter rains had come
And had  returned to the forest deep,
The place where it came from.

Mouse Deer then fell fast asleep
Underneath that mango tree;
But as it slept it did not know
It was in jeopardy.

Suddenly a mighty roar
Made Mouse Deer quake with fear;
Because its cunning mind surmised
A tiger must be near.

Mouse Deer’s big eyes then darted
Up, down, left and right,
To discover the direction
From whence came its present plight.

But there, close to its body,
It saw an unexpected sight.
A king cobra lay sleeping
And caused Mouse Deer great fright.
Now Mouse Deer shook all over
For two enemies of its race
Conspired to put it in between
A rock and a hard place.

Before Mouse Deer could flee the scene
A fierce Tiger drew near.
Saying: “Goodness gracious o my soul
Today I’ll eat Mouse Deer!

It’s been three days since I last ate,
And you’re my favorite dish.
Your time has come to die”, it said
Do you have a last wish?

O Forest Lord!”, Mouse Deer then said,
I accept what fate has dealt;
But the King has placed me here
To guard his precious belt.

If you would dare to kill his guard
You’d be in trouble deep,
For surely you’d be put to death
Your wife for you would weep.”

Where is the belt?” the Tiger said.
It’s coiled here to my right.
And though you are stronger than me
Would you the King dare fight?”

The tiger looking at the snake
Thought it a belt to be,
It was awed by its size and shape
And its brilliant colors three.

Tiger then said to Mouse Deer,
Can I try it on?”
I’m powerless to stop you if
The King’s belt you would don;

But there are creatures watching
And the king’s wrath I do fear.
If you were to put it on
And I was standing here.

So let me go and take a leak
And while I’m looking not
You can try it on and then
Return it to its spot.”
Tiger said: “Relieve yourself,
And the moment you are gone
If only for a minutes few,
The King’s belt I will don.”

Mouse Deer hurried from the spot
And hid behind a tree.
Tiger, unconscious of the cost
Of its stupidity,

Wrapped the belt around its waist
And woke up the snake.
The King Cobra coiled tighter and
‘Twas Tiger’s turned to quake.

It wound itself so tightly
That the Tiger roared in pain.
The Tiger’s days were ended and
Its loss was Mouse Deer’s gain.

Mouse Deer remained hidden
And observed Tiger’s last breath,
Then ran off to the forest
Happy to have escaped death