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Stories From Kiribati


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Taboo - Disturbing canoe props

Posted by Amota Eromanga on November 23, 2012 at 8:40 PM

'Taboo' is known to be something culturally forbidden to either say, use or do. Kiribati has unique taboos which people likely begin learning from their early ages.

The particular taboo discussed here is one that prohibits I-Kiribati from touching or moving the props of a fishing canoe while its owner is away fishing in the ocean. Props are indeed wood or other similar materials used to comfortably rest the bottom part of the canoe when it is on land. The Kiribati word for this item is nango.

Most canoes are placed on three props - each at both ends and the other is under the outrigger float. Bigger canoes may need to have more than three props due to their length and weight. Every time a fisherman comes back from fishing, his canoe is taken onto the land and placed properly on its props so it dries up and safe.

The forbidden part:

Before a fisherman goes fishing, his canoe is brought into the sea by the members of the family. While he is away fishing in the ocean, it is very taboo to disturb the props of his canoe. They must be left untouched until the fisherman returns. Members of the family are responsible in guarding these items from passerby and especially children who love playing with pieces of wood that lie around. If the children forget or just don’t listen, they can either be scolded or even given good spanking.

What happen if the props are disturbed?

Fishermen believe that when their canoe props are disturbed, it will result in misfortunes they will face while fishing. This includes catching few or no fish. The big fish on their lines will easily escape without reaching the canoe. Danger of capsizing or drifting away may happen.

So to avoid ill luck from happening to their men, the family members guard these items properly. Whether the props are left behind inside the canoe shed or in a space outside, they have to remain there undisturbed until the fisherman returns.


Categories: Culture & Custom

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