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  • The ‘golden section’ on Kitawa Island

    Giancarlo M. G. Scoditti

    Chapter from the book: Siikala, J. 2021. Culture and History in the Pacific.


    When one first looks at the lagimu and tabuya, the two multicoloured prowboards placed symmetrically, like mirror-images of one another, on the ceremonial canoe (masawa) used for the Kula Ring exchanges, one is struck by the delicate visual balance between the graphic signs carved in the surface of the wood. The concept of randomness, in the sense of lack of 'order', as absence of planning, must, one feels sure, have been foreign to the person who carved these two prowboards: his hand and his eye must have been guided by precise rules of composition. In what follows I shall try to identify some of the aesthetic principles which determine these rules of composition and the technique which realizes them on a lagimu and tabuya. My exposition is based, as far as the aesthetic principles are concerned, on a series of conversations with Towitara Buyoyu, regarded as one of the greatest woodcarvers in Milne Bay, and Tonori Kiririyei and Siyakwakwa Teitei. Of these last two the former is a young carver of multicoloured prowboards, and the latter a carver and builder of hulls for ceremonial canoes. The lagimu/tabuya, as a geometrical and abstract schema, is equivalent to an equiangular spiral inscribing a golden or isosceles triangle. It is no coincidence that in the past Kitawans used to build ceremonial canoes called goragora (Nautilus pompilius) and characterized by a lagimu in the form of a large, stylized, Nautilus shell.

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    Scoditti, G. 2021. The ‘golden section’ on Kitawa Island. In: Siikala, J (ed.), Culture and History in the Pacific. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-12-15

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    Published on Sept. 29, 2021


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