by Dr. Laurence Goldman

These same antitheses, aspects of the more general man-bird there, pervade accounts of Haroli and the complex ideas concerning the importance of Huli wigs. Despite virtual cessation of these bachelor cults, wigs are still worn by most adult males as part of everyday adornment. They have retained much of their traditional import providing a visual criterion for self-differentiation and definition in opposition to neighboring cultures. This facet is linguistically expressed in those pureremo presented at the beginning of this chapter. Explanations of genesis, rather than continuation, as to why ‘hair’ should be a focus for aesthetic attention must remain conjectural and speculative. Nevertheless, three related observations of language use suggest possible lines of argument.

(1) The semantic and etymological parallels of manda (hair of the head – usually in a particular state) and manda (knowing/understanding) signify, as previously noted, a Samson motif in Huli culture. Adult males could not traditionally marry until they had grown a beard for which daily recitation of gamu was a prerequisite of success.

(2) The term iri is employed for both human hair (manda iri) and bird feathers (Ega iri) underlining perhaps the important value of ‘movement’ in both human and animal domains. Feathers used in decoration must shake (bara) and those which lay to one side (pu pagi) or flock in different directions (ba tara ba tara -ba (hitting) + tara (differently) are considered unaesthetic. This vital sense of movement is similarly expressed in the Dindi Dongoma Gamu presented above by such phrases as “go like the wind against the hair”, “flap your wings like these birds” and the many references to “flight” (yaga cf.Hongo Helo Gamu.)

Huli wigman wearing the bachelor's red crescent shaped coiffure
Manda Hare ‘upturned’ red or black ceremonial crescent-shaped wig.

(3) Related to the above two arguments is the possible connection between the statements “I am decorating” and “I am imitating a cassowary”. I have shown in this chapter that such imitative imperatives (i.e. be like a cassowary) are typical concepts used in child-rearing. The association between cassowary and wild/aggression is central to Haroli decoration and other behavioral contexts. Dispute opponents are conceptualized in speech as “cassowaries” (ref.D.2:77-78) and minor sorcery is still practiced to inhibit a protagonist’s speech, action which is expressed as “knotting the hair of a cassowary” (see Chapter 5). This last remark again emphasizes again the relationships that subsist between man – talk – bird.

A complete exposition of Haroli is beyond the scope and concern of this present discussion so that in what follows I have restricted myself to amplifying themes elucidated above. In essence, the cult concerned only bachelors (from about the age of sixteen) who would, for a period of approximately two years or more, seclude themselves in the bush undergoing stringent ritual purification – a cleansing of the body and mind of female pollution. Instruction would be given by elders known as Mambo or Igiri Aba (father of the boys) who would be paid in shell and pig for accepting incoming initiates.

Normally each hameigini would have had at least one Tigi Anda (cult house – ‘forbidden place’) attended by males who were the resident members of the parish. This was not, however, always the case. Many Koma men I interviewed had enrolled as Iba Giya (Haroli novices: the phrase is possibly a compound of Iba (water) + ngiya (given) = purified in the sense of having been “given bespelled water” in Pureni on account of its reputation for producing the finest Haroli. Other Koma men had joined the Tobani cult to be with close friends (igiri yango) during the experience. People who have shared the same Haroli house often refer to themselves as manda mandagi (one hair people; ref.D.9:271). Membership was voluntary and could be renounced at will. Indeed, many males never went through Haroli, while others where expelled after breaching norms pertaining to contact with women. Men who fell into these latter classes appeared not to suffer any permanent social disadvantages.

The graded series of rites and Gamu, often taught and recited collectively, had two main functions: first, purification from contaminating influences; second, promotion of physical growth and beauty. In this latter context, glistening skin (migi mege), tautness of body or hair (payeyo), avoidance of protruding stomach (tini polaki hea) were among the valued states. The communal nature of Haroli was the group recitation of Gamu, and reciprocal aid in decoration. Application of face paint could not be executed by an individual himself, and men shared both ochres, oil and the task of “dressing” others.

Nevertheless, we should note that Haroli was also a socially sanctioned channel for competition to develop a fine ‘Manda (hair-shape). Most informants could recite spells to prolong the sleep of co-initiates that was believed to be detrimental to hair fertility. This same ambivalence between the acknowledged forms of communal reciprocity and individual interests can be shown to typify the domain of speech interaction. There was, then, competition to gain approbation from and audience of both men and women, to be acknowledged as “better than” rather than “the best”.

Excess was always constrained. The process of presentation culminated in infrequent public ‘displays’ – perambulations from the ‘wild’ to ‘domestic’ domains. This division of space is analogous, and is understood to parallel, bird of paradise behavior. The separation of home/nest grounds – anda – and public/display grounds – hama – is manifested in the first text cited in Appendix 5 (Mali Gamu), and in references to the display behavior of the Lawes’ Six-Wired Bird discussed further on.

wigman wearing everday manda tene
Manda Tene or ‘ down-turned ‘everyday’ wig

Gradation of Haroli status was marked by the type of hair-shape grown and auxiliary items of adornment. Initially, novices would cultivate Manda Tene (‘source/origin hair’) using only charcoal (symbolizing ‘base/first’) for facial decor, and carrying pan-pipes (Gulu Pobe: signifying ‘playfulness’). When the hair was fully grown, and the requisite ritual stages completed, the same hair would be turned upwards into the Manda Hare (‘red hair-shape’). Bows – danda: connoting manhood/virility/maturity – replaced pan-pipes, use of color was permitted, and Gamu communicated to further enhance beauty. Conceptually, accession to Manda Hare symbolized a status transition from ‘immaturity’ to ‘maturity’, a rite de passage articulated and mediated by decorative icons. Manda were not wigs but ‘styled hair’ which was cut for wigs after renouncement of Haroli membership. The Hare is coloured with red ochre.

The use of black wigs is a modern innovation, and both shape and color may be explained as follows. Manda Hare represented the attainment of strength/potency inherent in the ‘life-blood’ (cf. Haroli origin myth) of the cult. It was an attempt of ritual acquisition of power, a natural property of woman, realized by used of red (daramabi: from darama – blood). It seems to relate back to the ambivalent conceptions of ‘blood’ (cf. Chapter 1) – fertility and death – and explains the utterance of “shame shame” (taga taga) when planting life-symbol plants. Haroli manifested the will of males to negotiate the primordial fecundity of the female. The assumption of cross-sex status is explicit. Young initiates in Ialuba were termed ‘igiri more’ (virgin boys), and ‘more’ is a term use normally only for girls.

The shapes presented by Manda Tene and Manda Hare are in positional opposition as “down-turned” and “up-turned” respectively. It is an opposition linguistically articulated by the term beregeda: to turn around (used also in the myth of death to oppose Mother of Life and Mother of Death). I suggest they represent the “non-display” and “display” forms of feathers in bird of paradise, a visual perception materially encapsulated. Furthermore, I believe we may single out the Superb Bird of Paradise as perhaps central in the imitative process. Several related factors provide varying degrees of validation for my hypothesis:-

(a) feathers that ring the edge of Manda should stand perpendicular to the rim, pointing outwards thus paralleling the “umbrella” fashion of feathers in bird display behavior. This is regarded as the essence of ‘good’ (baya) decoration in the context of Mali dances or previous Haroli presentations.

(b) The Superb crest is positioned centrally on the wigs, or hair creations, facing the front. The forehead is considered the locus of truth in Huli, it is situated ‘between the eyes’ emphasizing the visual natural of veracity. In an analogous fashion to the inversion of hair-shapes, the Superb crest reversed when worn on each Manda respectively. There are then two quite different levels of symbolic proposition.

Decorative Statements

The above iconographical collage intimates a statement of the form: underplay your achievement of ‘power’, restrain excess. This theme can be demonstrated to be culturally reinforced by two further ethnographic exemplifications. (1) The Huli say that when the Lesser Bird of Paradise (ref. Table 3) says “I’m good” then its performance will be bad; the converse is also verbalized. This same concept of excess can be shown, as I later argue, to apply to the sphere of speech interaction. (2) The necessity for modesty, for circumspection at the apogee of achievement is articulated in the following Gamu traditionally recited by Tobani Haroli when placing the Superb crest on Manda Hare only.

Informant: Landa of Tobani

I am shy of seeing men like the sons of the dogs
Wai and Wayeri
(Biango Wai Wayeri igini agagli hondo yurigi haro)
I am shy of seeing men like the sons of dogs
Pela and Pipi

(Pela Pibi la igini agali hondo yurigi haro)
I am shy of seeing men like the sons of the dogs
Ogobi and Agabi

(Ogobi Agabi la igini hondo yurigi haro).

My informant, a previous Mamgo of Tobani Haroli, explained to me that one was ‘shy’ of people when thus decorated like dogs who ‘slink’ away when men approach. This indicates the centrality of “excess” in both verbal and decorative display behavior, a parallel earlier commented upon.

(c) Linguistic evidence similarly emphasizes the fundamental role of the Superb in Huli thought. The species is denoted by the term Yagama, the root of which means “flying” (yaga) – an accentuation of the bird’s value in this ethno-ethology. This same concept of flight suffuses figurative references to children as Superb birds (cf. Appendix 7: verse 3). The import attached to this bird may reflect the fact that they constitute the most numerous of species of the family Paradisaeidae in Huli.

What appears to emerge from the above data is the manner in which decoration, like Gamu, is a form of symbol manipulation. I have set out in figure 6 a schema of those salient factors entailed by status transitions associated with Manda in Haroli.

Figure 6: Status Transitions

Manda Tene ——————————–> Manda Hare
pan-pipes (Gulu pobe) ——————–> bows (danda)
charcoal (ira pungua)———————-> red/yellow ochres/Tigasso Tree Oil
decoration Gamu not said —————-> decoration Gamu given
prohibited entry to Tigi Anda ————-> permitted entry to Tigi Anda-
when wearing brown feathers of the immauture cassowary
(Honagaga ———————————> talking to public prohibited
when wearing black feathers of a mature cassowary
(Yara Mindi) ———————————> talking to public permitted

The Huli thus conceptualize a homologous relation between developmental stages of man and cassowary by attainment of ‘speech’ and ‘adornment’ with specific feathers and bows. Importantly, red wigs, drums and cassowary feathers are removed from inside the house when cooking pig – actions symbolizing the avoidance of polluting ‘wild’ with ‘domestic’. These hierarchical facets of Tene and Hare are reflected in behavioral contexts outside of Haroli. The Manda Tene wigs (made after termination of Haroli membership) are “everyday” apparel, and when worn in Mali dance formations must take ‘second’ place to Hare wearers. In contrast, Manda Hare wigs are normally worn only on display/ceremonial occasions and ‘front’ phalanxes of Mali dancers. These behavioral observations intimate transitions along semantic dimensions of private/public, non-display/display paralleling the manner in which male Bird of Paradise ‘confront’ female birds. This is not theoretical abstraction but indigenous statement embodied in the following data.

Informant: Landa of Tobani

Text: Tagira Pialu Gamu – spell recited when coming out of Haroli into public view.

Like the black Lawes’ six-wired I am going
(Kandi yali mindini ale ale)
Like the brown Lawes’ Bird of Paradise I am going
(Kandi yali hone ale ale)
I am going to the cleared dancing ground at Igi
(Igi hama i mero)
I am going to the cleared dancing ground at Babagi
(Babagi hama i mero)
I am going to the cleared dancing ground at Gauwi
(Gauwi hama i mero)
I am going to the cleared dancing ground at Gambolo
(Gambolo hama i mero)
I am going to the cleared dancing ground at Nere
(Nere hama i mero)
I am going to the cleared dancing ground at Nerele
(Nerele hama i mero)

The Haroli initiate in the above Gamu explicitly identifies his public appearance with the movement of Lawes’ Six-Wired Bird onto the display ground (hama). The decorative features of Manda Hare itself (particularly shape), use of Lawes’ feathers (ref. Table 3 below) all express the invariant “umbrella fashion” in which male Birds of Paradise present their feathers to the females in display behavior.

This same idea of birds flocking to dance areas can be found in the Mali Gamu text cited in Appendix 5. The performer is identified with the Lesser bird while his performance is metaphorically conceived as “fruit” of various trees which are now ready for plucking. The audience game to the dance ground like other birds (mainly Lorikeet and Parotia types) to “pick” the dance, giving their approbation and admiration. In perspective, Haroli represents an exemplification and perpetuation of concepts relevant at all stages of Huli life-cycles. Transitions from immaturity to maturity, from ‘play’ to ‘assertion’ were symbolized both non-verbally – by replacement of pan-pipes with bows, of charcoal with red/yellow ochres – and verbally by acquisition of Gamu and permission to ‘talk’ to outsiders.

The differentiation of Manda was a decorative marking of these transitions in a ritual context, the meaning of which was retained ‘outside’ of the cult by separation of decorative contexts. Tene are ‘everyday” wigs, and Hare are ‘ceremonial’ wigs, these forms of non-verbal interaction expressing the display/non-display divisions of Haroli. These cultural forms of individual integrity and assertion serve as criteria for differentiating and defining the Huli from neighboring societies. They are expressed in formalized speech genres such as the pureremo (refer to the beginning of this chapter) and Damba Bi (ref. Appendix 9:49-64) cited herein. The centrality of ‘hair’ – in both child-rearing and Haroli – represents what we may call the Samson motif, pointing to the possible etymological relations between Manda (hair) and manda (knowledge). The equivalence is further incorporated in such genres as Wali O (death chants) in which women implore the dead “not to let your hair go bad” (Appendices 8:1:1-5:2; 8-11), urging a return of the spirit by entreating clouds to “bring the cut hair” (Appendix 8:2:8-11). Death is figuratively talked of as states of “cut hair”; similarly, departure from Haroli was initiated by a “cutting of hair” which was then utilized to make wigs. The kind of textual cross-references given here provide important insights into the way in which the motif of Man – Talk – Bird permeated cultural thought and action.

This discussion has highlighted the kinds of parallels, developed more fully in Chapter 4, that subsist between verbal and non-verbal confrontations and presentations of person. In this regard, applications of feathers and applications of talk are mutually interchangeable symbolic actions. The decorative codes are set, and circumscribe ‘creativity’. On the ‘inside’ (i.e. within Haroli) a man is primarily concerned with ‘development’, achievement of Hare status – to be like a ‘mature cassowary’. He may interact with ‘outsiders’ only when wearing the appropriate feathers. Once membership of Haroli has been terminated, the Manda forms are retained as markers of the ‘everyday’ and ‘epideictic’ contexts respectively; the cassowary feathers are now classed as ‘everyday’ apparel. The state of maturity has been attained, and the appropriate statements made. The decorative repertoire is now increased on the ‘outside’ (i.e., within the community), and the mundane cassowary feathers stand in opposition to Raggiana and Lesser feathers used primarily in display occasions.

The color symbolism of black charcoal/Manda Tene, and red and yellow/Manda Hare, that typified Haroli, assumes a new interpretation. There is then a continuity of semantic dimensions between Haroli and ‘outside’ domains, dimensions which contrast display/non-display occasions, and private/public zones. An an ideological level, the attainment of Manda (hair) is an acquisition of manda (knowledge). The predominant facet of the propositions made is that of symbolic inversion. In this context we might perhaps interpret the fundamental polarity of Manda Tene (base or origin/black) and Manda Hare (red/blood) as a manifestation of male/female opposition. The implicit duality of agnation and consanguinity is restated, but their dominance connotations are ritually inverted. Manda Hare is an explicit male recognition of the primordial fecundity of woman/blood, realized through symbolic manipulation of body and hair. Where we can elicit similar applications of these above dimensions, it may be that sets of homologous relationships are indigenously stated. The argument developed throughout the following chapters is that such a relationship obtains between domains of talk and decoration.

Chapter three is thus an attempt to progress from decorative evaluations to a detailed consideration of speech assessment. It considers stylistic facets, rather than thematic perspectives, of disputes presented in the body of this thesis. It represents an endeavor, for the Huli, to show not only that “it is important, for men, say, to be good at a certain way of speaking…(but) what would consist of an instance of activity in question, or what being good at it would be like”(Hymes 1971:71).

Haroli use of the Birds Of Paradise feathers
Bird of Paradise Decor

(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. 126-138.)