21. The Lore & Lure of Reunion - Before we see the Villèle group perform we ask him [René Dreinazana] to put Moringue in perspective and he tells us:

Moringue was a popular pastime in Reunion until it vanished in the 1950s, a period of time after which there is no written or physical evidence of its continued existence. Though appearing in theatrical presentations in the 1960s and 1970s, it was not reintroduced into Reunion until 1989.

The four most characteristic movements of the fight are: 1) the defi - the clenched fist challenge with the second knuckle of the middle finger protruding; 2) the rite de la terre - a ritual smearing of mud or rubbing of dust on the body before fighting; 3) battai coq - the ritual chest butt as a test of strength; and 4) the hirondelle- a strike with the heel of the foot.

Four Moringue groups or clubs have been formed thus far in Reunion, namely: 1) Association de Moringue de St-Rose (formed in 1990) consisting of 20 youths led by Sylvio Techer; 2) Association de Moringue de St-Philippe (1990) consisting of 16 youths led by Juany Bertil; 3) Association de Moringue de Chateau Morange (1994) consisting of 15 youths led by Blin Rodolf; and 4) Association de Moringue de Kan-Villèle consisting of 20 youths led by Atchama Kristel.

When asked to talk a bit about his own background with relation to Moringue, Mr. Dreinaza adds:

As director of the Departmental Sports Office (Office Departemental des Sports), I am trying to re-establish Moringue in Reunion as a part of our patrimonial heritage. There are plans for local and international exhibitions as well as its introduction into the school system. After it becomes popularized here again, I envision it as a possible regional sporting activity since it is already still very popular in Comoros and Madagascar [For which see my Lore of Madagascar pg. 280 - 284, 300 -301]. It can also be used as a "support" for getting a sport's diploma.

Before assuming my present position I studied the "science of mobility" and other martial arts like savate (French kick boxing). I used to kick box in the 60 kilo weight class and won the French "Foot Boxing" championship in 1986 and 1988, the European Championship in 1984 and 1989, and the African Championship in 1989. As for my experience with Moringue, I became enthralled with it, traveled to Madagascar, and studied it for 20 days with local boxers in Antananarivo and Morondava. In conjunction with Sudel Fuma I have written a small book on Moringue entitled Le Moring - Art Guerrier which was published in 1992.

There have been many "victories" for Moringue thus far. In addition to the book, we were successful in attracting attention to this sport in L'operation méditerrannée "Terre de rencontre" (1992) at Cap d'Agde where five presentations of Moringue were given before thousands of appreciative Mediterranean spectators. This was followed by L'opération "Eté Indien" et Andrézieux-Bouthéon at St-Etienne in which several demonstrations of Moringue were put on in an effort to promote Reunion.

Furthermore, subsequent to a meeting with the Head of the Museum of Villèle in October 1992, youths living in that quartier were given special training for one month. These youths were then trained for a choreographed exhibition which was presented on December 20th, 1994 in the courtyard of the Museum.

Subsequent to that presentation other efforts have been made to promote Moringue including a) four representations of "Une journée à travers le Département" (sponsored by Antenne Réunion) at St-Paul, St-Pierre, St-Benoît, and St-Denis; and b) the establishment of course content for certification in Moringue which will qualify the holder for a grade 5 (BAPAAT) diploma. The National Education department has also demonstrated a pedagogical interest in this discipline by requesting demonstrations in primary and secondary schools (St-Joseph, St-Paul, St-André).

After our chat, Mr. Dreinaza gives me: 1) a copy of the aforementioned 55 page publication; 2) a copy of a 31 page book by André Jean Benoit entitled Le Moringue - Un sport Traditionnel à L'île de la Réunion which was published in 1994 by the Historic Museum of Villèle; 3) a Press Book consisting of Reunion news articles dealing with Moringue in 1995; and 4) a photocopy of a project proposal entitled Operation Moringue. What follows are the highlights from each of these sources:

22. The Lore & Lure of the British Indian Ocean Territory - My main Zilois contact and contributor to this publication was, without doubt, Louis Olivier Bancoult. Born February 15, 1964 in Peros Banhos, Olivier came to Maurice in 1968. He married his wife Marilyne in 1984 and is now the father of three children: Louis Oliver (1986), Jesika (1990) and Evelyna (1992). Marilyne (whose father is Rodriguen and whose mother is a Zilois) used to stay home with the children, but has recently taken a job to help meet the ever-increasing living expenses. Olivier and his immediate family currently live in Cassis (a suburb of Port Louis).

Bancoult, who studied up to Form 5, is 100% Zilois in that his father was born in Trois Frères ("Three Brothers" on the Great Chagos bank) and his mother in Peros Banhos. He was unemployed for quite a while, but served his group admirably as a “representative of the Zilois Community in Maurice.” Though he has since taken a job as an assistant electrician at the Centrale Electricité in Flac, he still organizes and engages in many Zilois community activities [See photo of the Zilois Community Center in Cassis on page 156 which he helped initiate]. He has lived in Cassis since leaving Chagos, but not in the same house. He tells us that the relationship between the Zilois and the Indian and Creole populations has greatly improved and that, since many Zilois are over 45 and find it nearly impossible to adapt to existing realities, “unemployment” is now the greatest problem facing the community.

When asked for information concerning the “song and dance” tradition in the Zilois community, he not only sang a beautiful lament (which he himself composed); but also volunteered to take me around Cassis, Roche Bois, and Point aux Sables to meet various Zilois artists such as Donald Payet (who introduced me to the famous histoires chantées), Louis Claude La Foudre (who sang a song of Zilois sadness); and Wiline Christophe Bancoult and her son who played and sang two traditional burial songs.

If one knows the history of the Zilois, Olivier’s song - Pay Inoubliable(“Unforgettable Country”) - is so powerful that it would bring the hardest-hearted listener to tears, and this is the first Zilois song (along with my English translation) that I’ll present. The man pictured, below, with hand on cheek, is none other than Olivier Bancoult and his song deals with the expulsion of the Zilois population from their homeland. After describing the good life in Chagos and their present misery in Mauritius, Olivier poses the heart-rending question: What sin could we have committed, For us to be in such misery today?” The song (sung in the Zilois language – a sort of French Creole) continues with the affirmation that, though they must now eat bitter herbs, one day they will be able to recover from their despair and perhaps be permitted to return to the paradisiacal life on their native islands where they lived free from hunger, thirst, crime, and stress. Particularly powerful is the line that affirms “a people without a country is like a tree without roots.”

[song in Creole with English translation follows]

 23. Black Lore: The Indian Ocean – pg. 17 – Feridhoo is an island in Ari Atoll that was once ruled by African chiefs. What follows is the Saga of Sangoaru (Sangor) as related by his great great grandson Adamu, the current mudeem of Feridhoo. Note that Malé, the capital of the Maldives, is pronounced “Mah lee”. 

Then one of the Black men

Slew somebody’s son;

And the nobles demanded

That something be done.


To Sultan Alhajji,

The bereaved father went;

But the Blacks were exempted

From all punishment.


Then Siraage Fandiaru,

The court’s magistrate,

Dared challenge Alhajji

The Head of the State:


“In hell you shall burn

Lest you punish the Black!”

The Sultan responded

To this verbal attack


By dousing with oil

The judge in his ire;

And then with a candle,

Did set him afire.


The judge was slain thusly

That his subjects might see

That no one should question

A Sultan’s decree.

24. Black & Indigenous Lore of Bolivia, Peru, & Ecuador – < pg. 198 - On September 22, we take the Pimapiru - Ibarra bus from Juncal and descend at the Salinas road juncture some twenty minutes later (at a cost of 800 sucres). From there we take a camioneta (for another 1,000 sucres) headed towards Cuambo and descend about one kilometer before reaching that community. We then walk to the river, cross a plank board suspension bridge, and begin a 40 minute climb up a steep mountain path. As we rest halfway up the mountain and look towards the point from which we came, we can clearly see the Chota-Mira river, the Pan-American Highway, and in the distance, the small community of Cuambo which we will be visiting later (see photo below). Twenty minutes later we find ourselves in Tulquisán. This small black mountain community, consisting of seven houses and 100 residents, intrigues us as much as we intrigue the residents.

We go immediately to the home of our host Don Abrán, where we are greeted by his wife Cremelia (pictured below with head scarf), his son Julio (wearing purple Nike tee-shirt), his grand-son Patricio (holding churos in his two hands), and a host of relatives. Patricio and Julio will later be our guides to several communities during our three day stay in this mountain retreat.

Abrán Santa Cruz (our host), was born in 1919 in Santa Ana (Parish of la Concepción) and is the father of seventeen children (7 with one wife and 10 with another). He has been living in Tulquisán for the past 25 years. He used to work with his brother as a chauffeur, and after an accident was able to buy half of another car with the insurance money he received. He then sold the car and moved to Tulquisán dedicating himself to the cultivation of frejol, tomato, and corn on his wife's property. However, with the passage of time, and the lack of sufficient water the family was obliged to sell their land.

Now the family earns a living by occasionally working as hired hands on other people's property, and by collecting churos (small snails) which they sell to Indians or Mishus. Churos are quite tasty with lemon and onion or in soup and is particularly appreciated by the indigenous kichwa-speaking community. The search for churos is done in large bands (i.e. mother with her children) and is no doubt reminiscent of the hunting gathering bands spoken of by Anthropologists.

Patricio describes a typical excursion as follows:

We leave home in a group of 7 or 8 people (children included) at about six o'clock in the morning. We climb unpopulated hills collecting churos as we go, and do not return home until 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The churos (snails) huddle in the grass after a rain and they are easy to find. There are two types of churos: the blanco (white) and the grueso rayado (fat striped). We can sell one almud of the grueso rayado for 40, 45, or 50 thousand sucres. The blanco only goes for 25 or 30 thousand. An almud is approximately four cans of snails. It takes about two weeks to collect three almuds of snails. When there is no rain we can find the churos walking along the road. The people of the town of Primer Paso (where you saw the Zamba girls on your first visit) also organizes churo expeditions.

 25. Twixt Cancer & Capricorn Series (Presently consisting of titles #10, 14, 16, 24, 26, 27, 30, 36, & 47 ) is a product of "phenomenological research" (see description below) in various regions of the tropical world. The proposed seven volume compendium will eventually consist of: 1) The Lore of Madagascar, 2) The Lore of the African Indian Ocean, 3) The Lore of Melanesia, 4) The Lore of Greater Melanesia, 5) The Black and Indigenous Lore of Central & South America, 6) The Lore of Africa, and 7) The Lore of the Caribbean. Those titles in italic script are, due to their length, being published in segments. The Black & Indigenous Lore of Bolivia Peru & Ecuador, for example, is the first segment of The Black and Indigenous Lore of Central & South America. The second segment will deal with Brazil; the third with French Guiana, Surinam and Guyana; the fourth, with Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama; the fifth with Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay; the sixth with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico; and the seventh with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize.

My primary aim in these "guided tours" is to expose the reader to those customs and traditions which at the time of writing played (and perhaps will continue to play) an important role in the livelihood, psyche, and world-view of the people dealt with. The series is, in effect, a collection of seven voyages (i.e. multi-segmental volumes) dealing mainly with the cultural legacy of peoples of African and/or Melanesian descent who reside in the tropics (here defined as the region between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn).

My thanks to Noro Andriantiana for providing me with excerpts from two articles ( Family Relations, April 1995; and "Introduction to Interpretive Inquiry" by Francine Holm Hultgren) dealing with "phenomenology", an approach which is said to have historical roots in 19th Century German philosophy. Though I was unaware of the existence of such a theoretical framework until having already published the first three volumes in the series, they, too, fall very much within the parameters of "phenomenological interpretive research" as described below:

Phenomenological research is a branch of study that seeks a deep understanding of what it means to be what or who one is. It is, in effect, a study of every day lived experiences and the meanings we attach to them. Phenomenology attempts to understand the target society, not objectively and not from one's own perspective; but rather from the perspective of the target society. That is, phenomenology presents reality not as we conceive of it; but rather as we experience it in the text.

In the process of reading a phenomenological text, the reader gradually sets aside his or her way of looking at things (world view) and comes to appreciate the meaning of life as perceived by the target society. By comparing and contrasting one's view of life with the new view he or she is exposed to, the reader will obtain a greater understanding of the multifaceted dimensions of reality, and possibly (as a consequence) reshape his or her views to conform to a "greater reality".

Phenomenology, therefore, does not seek laws that govern behavior; but rather reveals different possible ways of looking at the world - possibilities which, if incorporated into our lives, will lead to a deeper comprehension of reality and possibly to greater world harmony as we come to understand how we can better relate with others in this rapidly shrinking world of ours. The value of the approach is realized when, according to Linge in Gademer (1975):

...the interpreter genuinely opens himself to the text by listening to it and allowing it to assert its viewpoint. It is precisely in confronting the otherness of the text - hearing its challenging viewpoint - and not in preliminary methodological self-purgations, that the reader's own prejudices (i.e. his present horizons) are thrown into relief and thus comes to critical self consciousness... Collision with the other's horizons make us aware of assumptions so deep-seated that they otherwise remain unnoticed.

In the course of this series, the author leads the readers (through words and pictures) into a dialog with the people of the region being visited, such that the essence of each society in question is gradually revealed in a non-judgmental fashion. The reader is, in short, exposed to the history, geography, religion, language, cuisine, customs, people, literature, songs, philosophy, etc., of a given culture through representatives of that culture in such a way that the "world-view" of that culture is readily discernible. Phenomenology means "to let that which shows itself to be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself". According to Max Van Mahen (1984):

"Phenomenology asks the question, "What is this or that experience like?". It does not seek to control or explain the world; but rather to offer more insightful descriptions of the way the world is experienced so that we are put in more direct contact with it..."

For a more detailed presentation of phenomenology and its differentiation from ethnography, see section pgs. 1213 – 1219of my Three Northern Nguni Nations. Publications in the "Twixt Cancer & Capricorn" series to date are enumerated on the following pages:

Twixt Cancer & Capricorn

 This is presently a seven volume collection composed of: 1) The Lore of Africa [which presently includes The Lore of Africa Part I: Three Northern Nguni Nations (Zulu, Swazi, and Ndebele); 2) The Lore of Madagascar; 3) The Lore of the African Indian Ocean; 4) The Lore of Melanesia; 5) The Lore of Greater Melanesia [Which presently includes Hanuman’s People and Negritos of the Philippines: Books I & II]; 6) The Black & Indigenous Lore of Central & South America [which presently includes the Black & Indigenous Lore of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador]; and 7) The Lore of the Caribbean [which presently includes Lore of the Caribbean Part I: The Black Caribs]. Those titles in italic script have been partially researched but not yet published in their entirety. What follows is a description of publications to date in the series:

 1) The Lore of Africa – The Lore of Africa Part I: Three Northern Nguni Nations (Zulu, Swazi, and Ndebele) – this, the sixth volume of Twixt Cancer & Capricorn (self-published in 2002), takes the reader on a journey to learn about the life and culture of the Zulu of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, the Swazi of Swaziland, and the Ndebele of Zimbabwe and Gauteng. Highlights of the journey include: a) meetings with traditional healers, Shembe church services, the Shaka Day Celebration, the Reed Festival, and a female coming of age ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal; b) a soldier’s initiation rites, the King’s Royal Incwala Ceremony, and a rural wedding in Swaziland; c) the Amakhosi cultural center, the Khami ruins, and a male initiation ceremony in Zimbabwe; and d) the painted Ndzundza homes in Gauteng. Like other books in the series, this volume contains comprehensive appendices dealing with the history and geography of the region as well as an illuminating cultural glossary. Perhaps the most comprehensive book ever written on the subject, Three Northern Nguni Nations (with its 1220 pages and 732 accompanying color photos) offers the reader a truly informative and exciting armchair journey.

2) The Lore of Madagascar – This, the first volume of the series (self-published in 1994) takes the reader on a tour of the island and introduces him/her to its 39 ethnic groups. Through words (585 pages) and pictures (over 260 photos), the reader is taken on a breath-taking journey and is left with a vivid impression of the Malagasy people and their culture. The book contains four appendices dealing with the ethnic groupings, language, geography, and history of Madagascar. A typical chapter contains information dealing with the origin of the ethnic group in question, a description of the location where it is found, a discussion of a custom which members of the group believe make them distinctive from their neighbors, and a folk tale illustrating some aspect of that custom. In this way an unforgettable composite picture of Malagasy culture is produced. The book is written in the first person plural (“we”) and thus the reader will feel that he/she has become a character in the narrative. Nearly all the information in the book was obtained directly from representatives of the groups visited in Madagascar during a year long journey made by the author from August 1992 to August 1993. All photographs were taken by the author and are intimately linked to the narrative with which they are associated.

3) The Lore of the African Indian Ocean - Through pictures (385 color photos) and words (over 1,000 pages), the reader is taken on a breath-taking journey through the African-Indian Ocean and is left with a vivid impression of its people and culture. This volume (self-published in 1996) contains separate sections dealing with the Comoros archipelago, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory), the Maldives, and Reunion. A typical section contains: 1) a country briefing – treating the land, people, language, history, folklore, and principal attractions; and 2) a journey through the islands where the reader comes face to face with local people, their customs, and traditions. In this way an unforgettable composite picture of the region is produced. The book is written in the first person plural (“we”) and thus the reader soon feels that he or she has become a character in the narrative. Much of the information in this book was obtained directly from representatives of each of the islands visited in the Indian Ocean on a year-long voyage made by the author from October 1994 to September 1995. All photos were taken by the author and are intimately linked to the narrative with which they are associated.

4) The Lore of Melanesia - Through words (334 pages) and pictures (170 color photos), this book takes the reader on a breath-taking journey through Melanesia and leaves him/her with a vivid impression of the Melanesian people, their habitat, and their folklore. The book (which was self-published in 1995) is divided into seven chapters, each corresponding to one of the seven regions which constitute present day Melanesia, namely: 1) Irian Jaya (West Papua); 2) Papua New Guinea; 3) Vanuatu; 4) the Solomon Islands; 5) Fiji; 6) New Caledonia; and 7) Torres Strait. A typical chapter contains a description of: 1) the land; 2) the people and their languages; 3) the history; 4) the lure (i.e. attractions); and 5) the lore (i.e. selected customs). Each chapter also contains revealing photos and an “adventure poem” that deals with some important aspect of the material presented. In this way, the reader is left with a comprehensive and unforgettable picture of each of the various sub-sections of Melanesia as well as a profound understanding of their interrelationship with one another.

Subjects dealt with under “lore” include traditional religion, rites of passage, festivals, music, art, body decorations, traditional attire, dances, songs, stories, myths, shark and snake cults, kava drinking, “grade-taking”, sand-drawing, pottery making, “land-diving”, yam cultivation, traditional food, and cannibalism. There are 4 appendices, one of which deals with the languages of Melanesia.

5) The Lore of Greater Melanesia – This volume presently includes:

(A) Negritos of the Philippines Book I: The Aeta of Bataan – Through pictures (192 photos) and words (316 pages) the reader is taken on an exciting journey to the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines and is left with a vivid impression of its Negrito communities. The journey is divided into 19 segments, each corresponding to a specific population cluster. There is also a comprehensive appendix treating, among other things: 1) Negrito groups of Southeast Asia; 2) Negrito groups of the Philippines; 3) Negrito groups of Bataan; 4) the notion of race; 5) important elements of Negrito culture; and 6) a discussion of phenomenology. Throughout this text (which was self-published in 1999), the reader is made aware of the “trials and tribulations” and “lore and lure” of these soft-spoken and genial people resulting in an unforgettable and intimate composite picture. The book is written in the first person plural (“we”) and thus the reader soon feels that he or she has become a character in the narrative. Much of the information in this book was obtained directly from representatives of the Bataan Negritos on a three-month journey to the Philippines from May 26, 1998 to August 22, 1998. All photos were taken by the author save for a precious few that were submitted by informants for inclusion in this publication.

(B) Negritos of the Philippines: Book II: Meeting the Mamanwa - Through pictures (239 photos) and words (296 pages) the reader is taken on an exciting thirty day visit to the island of Mindanao in the Philippines where s/he meets and interacts with members of a number of Mamanwa communities, as well as with government officials and other local people in the provinces of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte. The journey is divided into two parts, each corresponding to a different province. During this journey, you will: 1) receive three briefings (One for Caraga Region XIII and one for each of the provinces) which provide detailed information concerning the people, geography, history, economy, folklore, and principal attractions; and 2) come face to face with local people, their traditions and customs. In this way an unforgettable composite picture of the Mamanwa, their setting, and their associated culture is produced. The book (which was self-published in 1999) is written in the first person plural (“we”) and thus the reader soon feels that he or she has become a character in the narrative. Much of the information in this book was obtained directly from representatives of the Mamanwa leaders on a three-month journey to the Philippines from May 26, 1998 to August 22, 1998. All photos were taken by the author save for a precious few that were submitted by informants for inclusion in this publication.

(C) In Search of the Vanaras in Tamil Nadu & the Andamans: Hanuman’s People - Through pictures (over 350 color photos) and words (615 pages), the reader is taken on a breath-taking trip through Tamil Nadu and the Andaman Islands in the first leg of a journey to those areas of the Indian sub-continent where the author hopes to find remnant aboriginal populations who may (or may not) be descendants of the Vanaras (“Hanuman’s People”). Hanuman, as all Indians know, was that legendary figure who helped deliver Lord Rama’s wife from the clutches of the Demon King Ravana in the famous Ramayana epic. Throughout this “armchair journey of discovery” (which was self-published in 2006) the reader: 1) comes face to face with representatives of a number of local Melano-Indian populations and their neighbors; and 2) is referred to a number of fascinating appendices that provide detailed geographical, historical, religious, and cultural descriptions of the peoples and lands visited. Highlights of this trip include a stay in Chennai (formerly Madras) and visits to the Nilgiri Hills, Madurai, Rameswaram, and the Andamans. The book is written in the first person plural ("We") and thus the reader soon feels that he or she has become a character in the narrative. Much of the information in this book was obtained directly from representatives of each of the communities visited from September 2003 to February 2004. All color photographs were taken by the author (save for a precious few that were either purchased or given to him by helpers).

6) The Black & Indigenous Lore of Central & South America which presently includes a single title:

Black & Indigenous Lore of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador - Through pictures (570 color photos) and words (1168 pages), the reader is taken on an exciting journey to the Andean nations of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia and is left with a vivid impression of the Black and Indigenous populations of the region and their associated cultures. The journey is divided into three parts, each of which treats a different country. Each part contains: a) a country briefing dealing with the land, people, language, history, folklore, and principal attractions; and b) a journey through the country in question where the reader comes face to face with local people, their traditions, and customs. In this way an unforgettable composite picture of region is produced. There is also a comprehensive appendix which presents further details about the ethnic groupings, indigenous languages, history, geography, and religious beliefs of the region. The book (which was published in 1998) is written in the first person plural (“we”) and thus the reader will feel that he/she has become a character in the narrative. Much of the information in this book was obtained directly from representatives of each of the countries visited on a nearly eight month journey to South America from July 11, 1996 to March 2, 1997. All photographs were taken by the author and are intimately linked to the narrative with which they are associated.

7) The Lore of the Caribbean, which presently includes a single title:

Lore of the Caribbean Part I: The Black Caribs - Through pictures (633 color photos) and words (1184 pages), the reader is taken on a breath-taking journey through those areas of the Caribbean associated with the origin and diffusion of the Garífuna (also known as the Black Caribs) where s/he will be exposed to their history, culture, and traditions and be left with a vivid impression of their trials and tribulations. This volume contains separate sections dealing with the Black Caribs of St Vincent & the Grenadines, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua as well as a section that links this proud race to sister populations in Dominica, St. Lucia, and elsewhere. It also presents the notion of a new race of people which the author calls “People of the Coconut”. Throughout this armchair journey of discovery the reader will: (1) come face to face with representatives of a number of local Garífuna populations and their neighbors; and (2) be referred to a number of interesting glossary entries that provide detailed geographical, historical, and cultural descriptions. The book (which was self-published in 2003 ) is written in the first person plural ("We") and thus the reader soon feels that he or she has become a character in the narrative. Much of the information in this book was obtained directly from representatives of each of the communities visited on three separate trips to the Caribbean and Central America from March 1999 to June 2001. All photographs were taken by the author and are intimately linked to the narrative with which they are associated.

26. Negritos of the Philippines: The Aeta of Bataan < pg. 88. When we arrive at the top of a hill (Mt. Santa Rita?) we encounter a gate guarded by a SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority) security detachment.

When one of the guards asks me to produce my "entry pass" (see photo next page), I tell him that we don't happen to have one. I also tell him that I am an American writer / publisher, and that the tribal chief is expecting us. In addition to this I show him our letter from the Mayor of Dinalupihan and assure him that we didn't come to chop down any trees.

The guard (pictured below) is apparently unintimidated by my size, and obviously not sufficiently impressed with my explanation to allow us to enter without written authorization. Nevertheless, he does agree to radio SBMA for instructions on how to deal with us. Unfortunately, whoever he talks to never heard of Dan Aiki Publications nor Armchair Travelers and is apparently equally unimpressed. To make a long story short, we are told that we must go to the Administrative Building in Subic Bay (via Olongapo) for clearance. The one bright spot in this surprise encounter is that the chief of the security detachment agrees to let us store our fish and shrimp in his refrigerator to prevent spoilage.

The road to Subic Bay is long, and we must change vehicles three times to get there. To further complicate matters, the sun is hot and our guide doesn't know where building 229 is. After spending 30 minutes or so walking around the complex we finally locate the building and (after identifying ourselves) are told by the guard at the main desk to go immediately to see an officer on the second floor who was expecting us.

After explaining our mission to the officer in the second floor office, she says that she has to contact her superior before permission can be granted. She asks me some questions, types up some paperwork, and then escorts us to another building where we must talk to another officer.

After another half hour wait, we are finally granted permission to stay in Pastolan from June 2 to June 8 and are given a form testifying to this fact. The final affirmative decision, I believe, was based more on the fact that we had an invitation from the chief (as vouched for by his emissary) than on anything else. What serendipity! Had we not met Chief Bonifacio, by chance, in Dinalupihan we would most certainly have been denied entrance into his community.

We make a photocopy of our pass (as per instructions on the form) to give to the sentry and then retrace our laborious route to Hermosa. Upon arrival at the security gate this time we experience no difficulty. We then pick up our refrigerated shrimp and fish and continue by tricycle to Pastolan.

Upon our arrival in Pastolan we pay the tricycle driver who happily receives his 100 peso fee and departs. Our escort (who happens to be the tribal chief's brother-in-law) then takes us to Chief Bonifacio's home where we receive a warm reception. After giving Bonifacio the food supplies we bought at the market in Dinalupihan, I use the best Tagalog I can muster to explain who we are, why we have come, and how long we would like to stay.

Bonifacio tells us that we are welcome to stay in his home for the duration of our stay and that he would do all he can to make our visit a successful one. After a further conversation in which I attempt to explain our problem in securing an entry pass, I realize that Chief Bonifacio's English is much better than my Tagalog. As a result of this discovery, our conversation becomes characterized by shifts back and forth from English to Tagalog.

A few more minutes pass and then Marilin (Bonifacio's wife) announces that dinner is served. Using the hipon (shrimp) and some of the gulay (vegetables) we purchased in Dinalupihan she has prepared a luscious sinigang ng hipon, one of the many new and intriguing meals we will have in the Philippines. Sinigang is a dish of meats or seafood (here shrimp) boiled with sour fruits to give it a tangy taste. Onions, tomatoes, and petsay (a vegetable with no English equivalent) are among the other ingredients. We are very hungry, and consume all that is set before us with great relish.

As we are finishing up our meal, Leonardo Abraham [the Aeta representative on the Provincial Agrarian Reform Committee (PARCOMM)] walks in. We stand and introduce ourselves in Tagalog and then sit down in the living room where we resume our conversation.

After responding to questions concerning my motivation for wanting to write about the Negrito communities of Bataan, I tell Bonifacio and Leonardo that I have a series of questions for them and ask when would be an appropriate time to begin. They reply that now is as good a time as any and so I take a copy of the following set of questions from my little blue bag and begin the interview:

1. Name of Chief - age, number of children, age of children;

2. Name and Location of village;

3. Population of Village, number of households and individuals;

4. Type of housing;

5. Name locals call themselves;

6. Origin of group;

7. Foods most typically consumed;

8. Livelihood;

9. Religion;

10. Cultural feature that distinguishes them most from their neighbors;

11. Folk-tale;

12. Handicrafts;

13. Clothing;

14. Celebrations (the most important);

15. Language;

16. Games & Recreation;

17. Problems (the five most important);

18. Joys (the five greatest);

19. Marriage (whether interracial or not)

20. Words of wisdom, if any.

In response to our questions Chief Bonifacio says: … etc.

27. Negritos of the Philippines: Meeting the Mamanwa of Mindanao < pg. 208

Well here we are in front of the Barangay Hall in Curva, Santiago where Janito Curub is awaiting us. Janito, we discover, is not as young as he looks. In fact, he is 24 years old, married, and the father of a year old son. His sister, Ba-i Margie Banao (pictured below with her husband and children) is 30 years old, married, and the mother of 4 charming children ranging in age from 1 to 9 years old.

In our interview with the Datu and the Ba-i, we learn that Curva has some 30 houses and a population in excess of 100. The principal foods are: saging (bananas); camote (sweet potatoes); kamoting kahoy (cassava), and occasionally bigas (rice). This starchy food is typically eaten with calabasa (squash), camote tops, or malungay (a leafy vegetable) or, on occasions, fish or avocado.

Though "Mother Mary" (the Patron Saint here) is celebrated on May 20, many of the Mamanwa still adhere to their traditional Diwata beliefs. Moreover, although most Mamanwa speak Mamanwa and Visayan, they prefer marrying within their ethnic group in order to be able to continue following traditional ways. A young boy or girl is helped to find a mate by his or her parents and bogay (bride price) is still in vogue.

Livelihood is based on hired physical labor (maghaul), grass-cutting, gardening (onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers), rattan gathering and cutting, fishing, and the fabrication of mats and baskets.

According to Janito, the biggest difference between a Mamanwa and his neighbors lies in his poverty and lack of formal education. Janito says:

Our problems are many. Our houses are flimsy and we lack proper health care. We don't even have sufficient food to feed ourselves and our children much less educate them. The cost of giving our children even a primary school education is beyond our means because we do not have wage paying work. Our salvation lies in finding work and in receiving help from the government. On the other hand, we enjoy: the sharing and caring of our community and family life; receiving gifts, like rice, from the government; eating three times a day (especially when there is meat); celebrations involving singing and dancing; and having children to look after.

While the Ba-i is busily engaged in preparing our meal (see photo, below), we take a quick stroll around the area.

28. Ikotofetsy & Imahaka in Verse < pg. 1 > Ikotofetsy and Imahaka are two mischievous tricksters from Madagascar who have amused Malagasy children and adults alike for generations. However, it is Rabezandrina (a member of the Tsimiombolahy cast who was born in 1836 and taught at Ambohidratrimo) who is credited with being the first to write down sixteen of these tales. His collection was eventually published and disseminated throughout the length and width of the island. While Ikotofetsy is undoubtedly a malicious trickster, Imahaka though also quite clever, typically pretends to be naive. The "I" which appears in the front of each of these trickster's names is a prefix meaning "small" or "little" and contrasts with "Ra" used as a prefix to names indicating adults.

The Malagasy pronounce Kotofetsy and Mahaka in rapid speech as "kyut fets", and "maaka". This is fortunate for it enables me to use their names in the form (rapid, normal, or slow speech) necessary to preserve the rhythm in my verse rendition of seven of the aforementioned tales. That is, Ikotofetsy is rendered as Ikotofetsy, Kotofetsy, Kyutu Fetsy, Kyutu Fets, and sometimes simply Kyutu or Fets. Imahaka is written (and pronounced) as Mahaka, Ma'aka, Maaka, or simply Maka. It should also be noted that in Malagasy the letter "o" is pronounced "u" as in "too", the letter "e" like the "e" in "let", the letter "a" like the "a" in "father", and the letters "i" and "y" like the "ee" in "see".

This is the first in an intended 4 book treatment of Malagasy tricksters. Book II and III deal with some of the longer Ikotofetsy & Imahaka tales; whereas Book introduces other tricksters as Kelimahihitsy (for which see The Lore of Madagascar pg. 129 - 132) and Kidimahihitra (See Lore of Madagascar pg. 415 - 419).

According to a local priest, Ikotofetsy and Imahaka are "the only two characters in Malagasy literature that are cheered for doing reprehensible deeds. For example when they meet Rafotsibe ("Mrs. Very White"), an old lady with white hair tending her sheep, they observe that she is having trouble keeping them together and tell her to tie them to her leg with a rope so that she can better control them. The old lady follows their advice and the sheep (which are subsequently frightened by a dog) panic and drag the old lady to her death. This story brings laughter rather than disgust to those who hear it."

"Intelligence and cunning are highly attributed among the Malagasy ( Lore of Madagascar: 422), and stupidity and ingenuousness are scorned. It is in this light that one can properly understand why one does not feel sorry... for the old white-haired lady who accepts a ridiculous solution to a real problem. A person who is "fetsy" ("cunning") like "Tricky Dick" is therefore admired rather than impeached because cunning is considered to be a positive rather than a negative characteristic. Of course if the trickster is not in your group (i.e. does not represent your interests) that is another story."

Indeed in most trickster tales from this region, a small protagonist (the youngest brother, the cunning little one, the clever little one, little Koto, little Mahaka, and the mouse deer) is pitted against a powerful adversary. The protagonist, because of his small size, resorts to cunning and treachery to survive. Thus it is acceptable to violate moral codes if one is fighting for survival against an oppressor or an oppressive system.

The below tales, therefore, teach the listener ( Lore of Madagascar: 422) "to be aware of the trickster; but not condemn him because of his deceptions. On the contrary, the trickster is more often viewed as the protagonist and the duped adversary as either the villain or someone who is so stupid that they deserve to be duped". Note that the bold type is to aid the reader in assigning stress to each line of verse.


("Two swindlers are swindled")


Kyu tu Fetsy, traveling east,

with a hoe to sell

Came upon Imahaka

while strolling through the dell.


Imahaka was going west,

a basket in his hand.

Its contents, he had hoped to sell

In unfamiliar land.


"What have you in that basket friend?",

Ikotofetsy said.

"I have a big fat chicken that

my mother's kin have bred.


And what is that you're carrying

That's swaying to and fro?"

"O, something that my uncle made,

A brand new iron hoe?"


"O really now, imagine that!

How would you like to trade?

I'll give this luscious chicken

For your hoe that's newly made.


But... don't open up the basket

Till you reach the place you stay;

For the chicken is unbound you see

And may just fly away."


"And you, my friend, be careful with

This hoe, don't use it yet!

The metal's freshly forged you see

And needs some time to set!"


The two agreed upon the trade

And each then went his way,

Bothcertain they had bested

The other on that day.


When Kyutu Fetsy reached his home

that evening, so they say,

The chicken chanced to be a crow

And promptly flew away.


When Mahaka dug in the earth,

His hoe broke straight-away.

Though painted o'er with graphite it,

was really made of clay.


Then throughout Madagaskar

Folks quickly spread the news,

That two great crooks were swindled,

Vic tims of each other's ruse.



("Two tricksters become friends")


And then by chance these tricksters two

Happened to meet again.

SaidMa'aka to Koto Fets,

" Is that you there, my frien(d)?


I hope that you're not angry 'bout

That trick I played on you.

I gained nothing from it 'cause

You really tricked me, too.


And being that we both are crooks,

Why don't we two join forces?

We could make a fortune just

From stealing cows and horses."


They both agreed and as they walked

They came upon a sheep.

The shepherd who was tending it

Lay near a tree asleep.


So Mahaka picked up the sheep

to spirit it away,

When suddenly its owner came

And to the thief did say:


"Can it be you want to steal

That fat sheep in your hands?

We shepherds don't take kindly to

the thieves here in our lands.


The shepherd gave a signal and

His kin came straight-away.

'Twere it not for Ma'ka's cunning,

He would have died that day.


Ima'ka asked the gathering:

"Why are you so irate?

I do not want to steal this sheep.

I'm checking out its weight."


29. BMA II: Combat Games of the African Indian Ocean <Introduction > The purpose of this volume is to introduce the reader to a fascinating danced-combat of African origin that was brought to Martinique by enslaved Africans. Known variously as ron-point (wonpwen), danmyé and ladjia, in different parts of the island of Martinique it is nevertheless the same art for it can be convincingly argued that: “ladjia” (from the French la guerre = war or battle) refers to its combative aspect; “danmyé” to its drummed aspect; and wonpwen / ron-poin (round point = traffic circle) to its “physical setting” - that is, the place where the combat takes place. Thus, just as their Catholic Religion conceives of God in three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost), so danmyé can be conceived of in its three aspects, namely: 1) combat (ladjia); 2) music (danmye), and 3) the circular place where fighting and music simultaneously take place (ron-poin).

Though some investigators maintain that rond-poin is derived from ron –poing (rounded fist posturing or a particular circular delivery of a fist blow) rather than rond-point (traffic circle), this is an academic question which has little relevance to the nature of the combat. Other scholars (e.g. Josy Michelon) contend that Ladjia is a corruption of Kadjia (a traditional wrestling combat from the Basantché people of Benin); but this assertion, too, though effectively linking the combat to an African Martial Arts tradition, falls in the realm of speculation as is her contention that kokoyé (another term once used for the combat) derives from kokoulé (a wrestling form from the Kotokolis of Benin).

After having been exposed to the local Creole, I am convinced that the word ladjia is derived from the French word “la guerre” meaning battle or combat. There is a tendency in Creole to change one-syllable French nouns (like “guerre”) into two syllable words by prefixing “la” or “de” – e.g. lari (< rue), lanmen (< main), diriz (< riz), difé < (feu), etc. in order to conform to certain African morphologic patterns (e.g. as in the case of Yoruba where verbs typically consist of one syllable but nouns usually consist of two or more syllables). Moreover - given that: 1) the hard “g” sound (as in “goat”) changes to a “dj” sound (as in George) when it occurs between two vowels in the same word; and 2) the definite article in Creole (“the”) is attached to the end of the word in the form of “la”, “an” or “a” (e.g. loto-a = the car) - it is quite obvious why the French construction “la guerre” becomes “ladje + a” = ladjiya”. The dictionary entry for “war” in Martinique Kwéyol (Creole) is, in fact, ladjé and “the war” is rendered “ladjé-a ”. It is thus not necessary to seek its etymology in an African language [For etymology of danmyé see pg. 75 ].

Regardless of the meaning of the name given to this danced combat art, however, it is obvious to all investigators that “Danmyé / Ladjia / Wonpwen” (like Capoeira in Brazil) was invented and further developed by Africans and peoples of African descent.

For purposes of presentation, I will henceforth refer to the sport as Danmyé, which – by the way - sounds suspiciously like “dambé” (the traditional boxing art from Northern Nigeria). Despite this “abbreviation”, however, the reader should not discount the other two aspects of this fascinating tradition. For a complete description of “dambé” boxing see pg. 17-38 of the first volume of this series.

My first direct exposure to danmyé occurred during a brief stay in Martinique from March 24 to April 18 of 2001 and nearly all the first-hand information in this volume was obtained directly from “A.M.4” members during that visit. A. M. 4 – by the way - was founded in 1986 by some 46 individuals and is an acronym for the AssociationMis Mès Manmay Matinik which means the Association of “Hereare (Mis) the customs (Mès)of the People (Manmay) of Martinique(Matniik).” The presentation is here supplemented with information obtained from various AM4 publications and other sources listed in the bibliography.

30. Three Nguni Nations: Zulu, Swazi & Ndebele ( HB, Color) <pg. 113-115> Bonginkosi Zungu was born in 1972 in Eshowe and completed 12th grade as well as his "matriculation" in 1989. In 1990 he began training as an isangoma ("diviner and healer") in Transkei with a person of Xhosa extraction. He completed these studies and became a practicing isangoma in 1992. When asked why he decided to study this art, he replies:

When I passed my "matric" I began to get ill. I had constant headaches, sharp pains in my side, and began getting thin. One day as I slept, I dreamed that I should go to Transkei to become an isangoma. The following morning I awoke at 10:00 AM and left home without telling anyone where I was going. After 6 months in Transkei, I returned home for 1 day to tell my family where I was and what I was doing. I started working as an isangoma in Eshowe; but, because of competition from a large number of izangoma in the vicinity, I transferred my practice to KwaMasho in 1994. I stayed there for 6 years before moving here to Mgai in September of 1999. …

We get a chance to see him practicing his art in Mgai when two female clients solicit his aid in resolving their problems. He first transforms himself into his isangoma mode by donning a headdress that looks like a woman's long braided hair and wraps a piece of cloth around him like a skirt. He then starts to utter words in a rapid staccato after having first blown on a gourd.

The first woman then underwent a ritual which was difficult for me to follow because -since everything is done in isiZulu - I had not the slightest clue of what was going on. The sequence of events, however, was as follows. The woman entered into the treatment hut with a girl carrying a chicken. Then with the help of the girl, the chicken was ritually killed (see photo below) and its blood placed in a pot containing water and muthi (medicines). Following this, the lady left the room after having been instructed to bathe in some of the liquid from the aforementioned pot. When she returned, the woman was given a "candle bath". After this, she gave Bonginkosi an egg which he marked with some of the remaining chicken blood. He then commenced to make cuts in certain parts of her body (from head to toe) with a razor and wiped the blood from the cuts with the egg. He then smeared an ointment over all the incisions and gave the woman certain instructions. After this, she thanked him and left.

After this ritual was concluded I asked him to explain what happened and he said:

The first thing I had to do was to divine what the problem was. The patient never tells you what is wrong, as it is the task of the isangoma to divine both the problem and its solution. In her case, she was pregnant three times and each time her baby died in the womb. Her problem was that there was a tokoloshe in her womb and I had to remove it. The procedure I used was as follows. First I killed the chicken that I asked her to fetch. I then took out the bile and put it in the pot with water, muthi (medicines) and the blood of the chicken. She then went outside and bathed in this. When she returned I washed her with the flame from he candles to make her sting. I then took an egg that she sent her child to fetch and made crosses with the chicken blood on the egg. I then made incisions with a razor on top of her head, throat, chest, back of neck, three on each arm, and one on each ankle. I then rubbed each of the wounds with the egg and followed this by smearing medicine on each of the wounds. I then lit a candle and instructed her to let the wax from the candle dribble and fall behind her as she walked out and away while saying: "If you want me you can get me here." In doing this, I told her, she must take care not to look back. Now she is cured, because the tokoloshe who came to her womb daily in the evening while she was sleeping, will no longer be able to find her.

I ask him how he knew what her problem was if she didn't tell him and he replies:

First I blow on this ishongwane (small gourd) to summon the ancestors. Then -since I am in contact with my grandfather in the spirit world - the amadlozi come and inform me what the problem is.

When asked what he'll do with the chicken and the egg, he says:

I'll cook the chicken and [pointing to a spot in the hut] suspend it over there where it will remain until the morning. Then I will eat it tomorrow because the amadlozi will have already taken their part. The woman for whom the sacrifice was made is not allowed to partake of the meat of the sacrifice.

As for the egg, I will take it and bury it until I have need of it. The egg you know has the blood of the lady on it and the tokoloshe will think that it is her womb and be trapped. He becomes my guarantee, and when I need him I'll dig up the egg, break it, and free him to do my bidding.