by Laurence Goldman

One of the striking aspects of this case is the importance attached to the element of “publicity”. There is an applied distinction between matters for public, and matters for private discussion -what should and should not be “spread on the road”(ref.1-2;103;108-109;177;189). Whereas in D.2. “making the talk come out on the public place”(ref.D.2:167-172) is used by a disputant as a form of incrimination, in D.3. the statement allows mediators to express a more generalised disapprobation without entailing factional alignment. Conformity to the implied prohibition on “washing dirty linen in public” may equally be used as a character testimonial(ref.176-180). By discriminating boundaries of the acceptable and unacceptable mediators are able to confine and de-escalate possible conflict repercussions. The situation is perceived as “insult” engendering states of shame and anger. These feelings are expressed by Egeria as the result of his inability to walk on the public road, a repetitive feature of his accusations(14;22-23;51;71;146), and behaviour which he implicitly equates as belonging to women. Females should step aside or go into the pitpit when men approach and not the converse .. His injury is one of illness, of “sores” (37;110-111), the demanded compensation is a form of medicinal relief to “rub on the sore”(192-193).

What emerges even from such a limited comparison of cases thus far presented, is the stereotyped pattern of mediation techniques, formulations and statements of norm which may be used quite differently by disputant or “middle-man” (dombeni). The attempts by both Kabo and Hega to locate “source” (tene:18-23;40-41;48-50) manifests the same sifting and separation process employed in D.2.

Events and speech are placed in chains of causal sequence by apt use of locative terms (e.g.53-58), and by this means liability is established for compensation. These arguments may, as in this case, be explicitly related to behavioural rules, to Mana(66;94-95). The. whole procedure can be applied at successive phases of discourse when perceptions of “tene” change according to the level of information received by participants. In precisely the same way in which Ugubugu in D.2. (ref.D.2:97-102) expressed his convictions about “hidden talk”, so in this case Kumuria redefines the “source” as an issue concerning pigs (113) rather than insult. These critical changes in perception of cause and situation a l definition are related to cultural expectations of mendacity in these interaction contexts explained previously for D.1.

Further illustration of the above observations can be had by focusing on how mediators use the technique of conflict-level delineation. I have demonstrated how in D.1. – the distinction there made between inter / intraclan and in D.2. -use of the dogma of “one blood” – descriptions of “setting” can be used variously by disputants to inhibit further argument, and by mediators to make oblique reference to behavioural injunctions. In the above cited case, Walumbu states the dispute is between “relations”(64-65), also a form of denial that she would insult a “relative”(106-107). In contrast, Hega is able to refer to the de facto situation that “all relatives argue”(114-115), as a means of mitigating the seriousness of the issue. These patterns of defense, accusation and mediation are more fully discussed in Chapters 4 and 5. We may note the manner in which participants are quick to seize opportunities for settlement by renouncement of claims. Both Kabo (42-43) and Hega (57) restate the original intention of Egeria (39) that the dispute can be “thrown away”. The involvement in D.3. of cross-sex siblings introduces a significant development from D.2. Analysis of the defensive arguments made by Walumbu reveals not only the presence of counter-claims (200-206), but also the attempt to implicate others as both tene and liable to compensation (10-11;15-17; 25;46-47;67;70;164). The challenge is not to the implications or concept of tene itself, but to the interpretation and application of the canon. More important, at this juncture, is Walumbu’s mode of defense by accusation of male prejudice (88-89), and (2) accusation of source obfuscation (92). These, as I show later are invariant components of case presentation by female
disputants. Counter-accusations are framed by reference to woman’s position vis-a-vis man (211-212), and to the “covering” of source, explicitly a breach of the norm that talk should be open for all to see.

The indigenous model used as an ideal-type to which the process of dispute settlement should approximate may be stated as follows:

Tene talk: To search for the source - by Laurence Goldman

The application of the schema does not mark off med phases of any dispute, but serves as an orientation around which to organize and structure the flow of discourse (cf.D.3:149;D.1: 265;D.2:135-136;D.10:229-232;D.6:109-110;D.4:398-399;420-421;707-708;1117-1118). The following piece of oratory from another dispute encapsulates the above formulation:

” au bulebira manali tigua yabu lolebiragoni, libu e biagoda bidagoni. O agali mana li tigua handaya haruagoni yabu l a ga. Agali kago ibu gua yabu lolebira; pia g one ha bini ndo, nga go deni dege bi g i bini ngago au biribigoni. Ai ma nali kago ibugua Hahia aba ibu ka angi yabu lolebira tigua manali ka g o… libu tene manalime yabu lole. Ti bi daba bulebira …..”

“This is the way it will be done. The men with the Mana will share the talk. It won’t be done in the corner but on their eyes (i.e. in front of their faces). When Habia’s father comes they will share the talk. The men with the Mana are there. Those two people are the source and the talk will be shared. They will choose the talk.” (Egari ;.field notes)

The text illustrates not only the importance of “visual truth”, but in addition the distributive, exchange and transactional concepts that inhere in the Huli forensic procedure. The manner in which the notion of speech reciprocity is interrelated with the seeming paradox of aesthetically valued veiled speech is discussed later in this chapter.

I turn now to an examination of the third semantic dimension abstracted earlier, the axis of control. Little need be said here about Huli notions of manali and control / public use of knowledge as I have dealt with this in the last chapter. Less easily understood, and almost totally neglected by Highland ethnographers, are the kinds of status contrasts extant in the social structure. How are people who show no control of talk conceptualised in a culture? Despite a marked lack of any hierarchical set of status terms. In Huli, a standard expression to denote a person who contrasts with a manali (‘man with Mana’) is Iba Tiri bi larebe? (Are you making the talk of Iba Tiri?) ref. D.4:955;D.2:73; D.7:209;282-283; D.10:308; D.11:110-113). As discussed in Chapter 2, Iba Tiri belongs to the pantheon of Huli supernatural beings, the only one whose name is used in everyday conversation. The Duna also employ the same term Iba Tiri, or frequently Yu Tiri, both of which literally mean “the fool of the water”. Congruously with the term Tiri (fool), this spirit has indeed trickster-like qualities, the subject of Bi Te (folk stories) told usually at night. Two forms of cats-cradle (hawalanga; tricks (hawa)) are denoted by the terms Iba Tiri Ti 1 (excreta of Iba Tiri) and Iba Tiri Mali (the dance of Iba Tiri): The spirit is further held responsible for any loss of axe heads (no doubt a reflection of the belief that he clears the waters of Huli; ref.Chapter 2) and people interact with this spirit by displaying similar forms of trickery. Pig is offered to Iba Tiri to find the lost article and then withdrawn when found. In the performance of Tiri Yagua (in Tege or for cases of extreme diarrohea) men dressed to imitate Iba Tiri are fooled by a transvestite believed to be a woman. The spirit has a defined abode along the banks of rivers (for reasons explained above), and the most essential aspects of his character are conveyed in the following pureremo:

Iba Tiri Bembe tigida/Baralu tigida/Tuya tigida/Tumana
tigida/Golia tigida/Ayele tigida/dambale dene udugununugu
lama/uluba wangaru udugununugu lama/elabe yangaru babagi
hama/iba hanua nogo lama/iba mbereya nogo lama/guru wali
nogo lama/guru kayele nogo lama/aleba hauwi nogo lama/iba
ngele nogo lama

Iba Tiri is along the banks of Bembe river/along the banks
of Baralu/along the banks of Tuya/along the banks of Tumane/
along the banks of Golia/along the banks of Ayele/the ends
of his string apron are uneven/the points of his threepronged
arrow are uneven/his Ribbontail feathers are on
one side/he makes a noise like a grass-skirt and we used to
think it was pig/he makes a noise like a . fish and we used to
think it was pig/he makes a noiije like a lizard and we used
to think it was pig/he makes a noise like a Dugube rattle
and we used to think it was pig/he makes a noise like a
cricket and we used to think it was pig.

This feature of dress and decoration -unevenness – and trickster qualities reinforce the conclusion that Iba Tiri is a form of institutionalised disorder. The occurrence of this appellation in jokes (to connote poor dress) and speech assessment (to signify meaningless talk) provides the level of contrast with Manali (the Knower). It is an opposition of the man with ‘control’ over speech, decoration and knowledge, to the man without control – an Iba Tiri. These negative attributes are, however, balanced by the positive associations outlined in Chapter 2 concerning the spirit’s primal procreative role, a fertility invoked in various contexts described previously. This duality of order / disorder characterizes the variant names of this Huli hero which always exist as paired formulations. They reveal a similar order of phonological changes – speech play – as the terms involved in children’s verbal teasing, insult and anger words:
Yuguale – Dabuale / Muguali – Dabuali / Elahe – Helabe / Kedo –
Gengedo/ Mini – Aminila / Wangoba – Memeba
(Duna area only).

The censorial use of this appellation in ordinary conversation and disputes (cf. references given above) distinguishes Iba Tiri from other members of the Huli pantheon of deities. The duality of order / disorder 2 suffuses all aspects of him, both conceptually and materially through the decorative representations made in Tiri Yagia. Interaction with Iba Tir is one of symmetrical deceit (ref.Appendix 10), a licensed domain for expressing excessive behaviour; disorder is externalised here as it is for sorcery, witchcraft and women.

Duality in Iba Tiri by Laurence Goldman

The principle of “pairing” so pervasive in the concepts of this spirit, relate to three intertwined aspects of Huli culture. (1) The variant names above are held by many to represent the male and female counter-parts ·of this deity. The duality of male / female, basic to notions of social structure, underlies here the representation of “disorder”.

(2) The association of Iba Tiri with forms of deceit seems to manifest a cross-culturally valid semantic equation of duplicity and “double-dealing”. In Huli this goes much deeper than the structure of reference
terminology. In the Tiri Yagia rite it is two Iba Tiri manifestations that fight over a transvestite male. As I have earlier pointed out, decoration is for the Huli a cultural indexing of tribal differences as well as a means of marking status differentials in Haroli.

In this regard, it is significant that Iba Tiri is the only deity with a defined decorative make-up, and the only one whose name is uttered in everyday contexts. In imitating this spirit, water is again the mediating element as the mask used to cover one’s face is made from a water gourd (mbagua:lagenaria sieraria:fam. Cucurbitaceae). Two Ribbon-tail (cf.Table 3) feathers Are placed on the head of each performer. We may account for the use of this particular feather as again expressing the relation between deceit and “duality”(a liar is a person with “two talks, two minds”), and perhaps also length – to trick someone is to “make long” (de lubia). The term for the Ribbon-tail is Elabe Yange (cf.Table 3, and Iba Tiri pureremo) which contains the morph ela – ‘to move/shake’. Movement of feathers, both in bird and human display behaviour, has sexual connotations associated with courting behaviour. These meanings are consistent with the presentation, disguise and withdrawal of ‘penis’ that characterises the myths in which Iba Tiri figure (ref.Appendix 10).

(3) The third aspect concerns the nature of speech play one encounters in Huli. This is a theme I return to in my conclusion, but as one peruses the textual data given in the thesis the pervasiveness of “name-pairing” perhaps deserves closer attention. The structures of phonological rearrangement are varied, including affixation, infixation, partial and complete – etc. What seems particularly interesting is the way in which these forms are indexing semantic oppositions. The association of speech play with children and games of deceit, has been commented upon by various ethnographers (e.g. Hymes 1964, Conklin 1956, and 1959), but in the Huli instance the same features appear to typify the language of insult and anger. To the extent that the variant terms for Iba Tiri also manifest the dualistic associations of male / female, one might ask whether the parallelism in semantic and phonemic oppositions reflect some base trans-formational rule. The phonemic inversion of the Fore terms for testes (oka) and vagina (ako) is perhaps a further example of the above. It is not simply an association between l angua ge/ vocabulary change and contexts of deceit, but that the phonological realisation of this is structurally parallel. The oppositions are being expressed within a constituent unity (semantic concept and phonological pool), and this seems to place this occurrence beyond any aesthetic motive attributable solely to the predisposition of children for speech-play. This theoretical point is developed more fully later after further data have been given.

The axiomatic norm of speech reciprocity in the settlement of disputes – the emphasis on “sharing the talk” – often functions to inhibit application of ideologies of dominance prevalent in other social contexts. There are a number of proverb forms which reverse or state orders of primacy (in the same way as Yoruba proverbs of child training (cf.Arewa and Dundes 1964)) such as elder / younger, male / female, expressing the apparent ambivalences of social classification and the egalitarian nature of the dispute resolution process.

He might still have some shoulder meat in his bad string bag:nu kuni a ene la dibini hana ene o lelo waha.(The implication here is that appearances previous character are deceptive, and the person should be allowed to participate in the discourse). b) The smallest bird was the first:ega Yuli Dimbi(?) wahenego.(This is used to permit young children, or those who stand in relations of juniority to others, to speak).
c) He is like a rat trying to be the head:hurume haguene harigo. (Used to censure another who is getting ‘above his station’.) d)He is like a banana trying to ripen from the bottom first :hai erene howa ibiru da ga nahagego .(Used as for Sc above when a person asserts authority or seniority and is conceived to invert the natural process of ripening.) e) He is small trying to be the head of the sago:emene hiwa haguene hariba. (As for Sc.) f) Woman turned the bow/ struts of the house:wali danda /anda maga beregeda. (This is a reference to the mythological primacy of woman, and how they taught men to put the bow-string on the right side of the bow, and to place the horizontal holding struts of a house on the inside. It is used against those who attempt to assert that because women are politically marginal or socially sub-dominant, they should be prevented from participation in political discourse).

It is evident from an examination of these proverbs and their use that bi mabura (talk+to go around) are veiled in two senses. First, they share the socio-functional characteristics of other covert speech forms in allowing a statement of hostilities and opposition, while preventing a direct polarization of issues or parties, by circumlocution(manifested in the term mabura -to go around). Second, they refer to a set of cultural truths which relate directly to the level of strategy and interaction in disputes, but which are often left implicit. These tropes are the means of re-orientation to assumptions about the interrelation of speech, social transaction and social context.

To be continued…

(An extract from Talk Never Dies: An Analysis of Disputes Among the Huli. A thesis submitted by Laurence R. Goldman for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University College, London. February, 1982., p. 164-171.)

  1. I am indebted to H. Goldman’s paper on ‘Huli Games’ (ms.) for this observation. []
  2. I am indebted to A. Strathern · for making me reconsider my data as a possible illustration of this point []

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