Friday, January 25, 2013

The Flying Proa - Chamorro Galaide

The Galaide was a smaller version of the Proa — a type of outrigger canoe with a single masted lanteen sail made of palm fronds used in the Marianas Islands 3,000 years ago. The Galaide was primarily utilized by the Chamorro people for fishing and transport around the island as opposed to the larger Proa or Sakram that was used more for inter-island travel and trade.

The first European reference to the Galaide goes back to when Ferdinand Magellan came upon Guam in 1521. A Francisco Alvos entry in his log book from that voyage notes that "...many small sails approached the ship sailing so swiftly they appeared to be flying." An account from the 1566 voyage of the San Geronimo under the command of Pedro Sanchez Pericon also speaks to the swiftness of Chamorro voyaging canoes and the agility of the voyagers by some accounts they traveled at or above 20 mile per hour which would have made them the fastest vessels in the world at that time.
By the end of the seventeenth century, contact and eventual settlement on Guam by Spanish colonialists and missionaries led to the near decimation of the indigenous Chamorro people through introduced diseases and warfare. In an effort to further demobilize and control the Chamorros, the Spanish government prohibited the construction and use of the Sakman and Galaide by locals. This led to the eventual decline of the construction and loss of the intricate engineering details of these swift, ocean-going canoes that had so fascinated the first visiting Europeans.
There are several groups on Guam and elsewhere who are working to reconnect with the seafaring past of the Chamorro people.
While in Guam, I was fortunate enough to run into a few members of TASA while hanging out near Ypau Beach. TASA: Traditions Affirming our Seafaring Ancestry. When we arrived at TASAs place there in the park, a few members were pulling in a small galaide the group had made.

Two things: One, being from the mountains what I know about sailing could fill a thimble and Two, being a slinger I was more interested in the materials used to make rope and bindings to build these amazing vessels so my new found friend Vicente was kind enough to introduce me to Pago (Wild Hibiscus) bark. Long straight limbs of Pagu which is very light but at the same time very strong was used for various parts of the mast and outrigger assemblies of the galaide. The bark of the wild hibiscus or pago is strong and the preferred fiber for making rope. Interestingly enough it is resistant to and said to be even stronger when exposed to salt water. I’ll talk more about pago and sling making later.
I was impressed and inspired by the craftsmanship of TASA and before leaving Guam I found a galaide model kit at the Che’lu Store in the Chamorro Village. It took a while to whittle down the pieces to get the best fit but it makes a nice addition to my office.

When you are in Guam, please seek out TASA members down at Ypau Beach. If you’re lucky, you may even get to take a ride in the bay on one of these beautiful hand-made boats.  

EDIT: I knew I didn't have the rigging just right and still probably not entirely accurate but here is the Galaide rerigged.

These small sailboats were not sailed conventionally, especially in turning the way most sail boats are piloted. They do not tack.

Another visitor, Woodes Rogers in 1711, said:
The Governor presented us with one of their flying prows, which I shall describe here because of the oddness of it. The Spaniards told me it would run twenty leagues per hour, which I think too large; but by what I saw they may run twenty miles or more in the time, for when they viewed our ships, they passed by us like a bird flying. These prows are about thirty foot long, not above two broad, and about three deep. They have but one mast which stands in the middle, with a mat sail, made in the form of a ship’s paddle to steer her, so that when they go about, they don’t turn the boat as we do to bring the wind on the other side, but only change the sail, so that the Jack and sheet of the sail are used alike. The boat’s head and stern are the same, only they change them, as occasion requires, to sail either way. For they are so narrow that they could not bear any sail, were it not for booms that run out from the windward side, fastened to a a large log shaped like a boat, and nearly half as long, which becomes contiguous to the boat. On these booms a stage is made above the water on a level with the side of the boat, upon which they carry goods or passengers.
They were called “flying proas” because of their speed, and possessed three technological innovations which made this label well deserved:
• Their hull was asymmetrical to counter the drag of the outrigger float.
• Chamorros used triangular sails to increase speed and allow for a closer sail to the wind.
• The proas tacked by moving the sail from one end of the canoe to the other. This is called shunting and is done because the outrigger float must always be to windward.
So fast were these vessels that one voyage from Guam to Manila reportedly took only four days, which means they traveled more than twenty miles per hour.
These canoes were vital to the survival of Chamorros because they facilitated transport and trade amongst islands and allowed them to fish beyond the reef.
Ancient Chamorros had at least six types of canoes: sakman, leklek, duding, duduli, panga and galaide. The sakman was the largest and most impressive, regularly measuring more than forty feet, some reportedly holding a hundred men, and ideal for long voyages and deep sea fishing. Leklek, duding and duduli were smaller vessels for shorter voyages. The panga is a duduli without a sail. The galaide, also without a sail, is also a small vessel. Both the panga and galaide were used within the reef.
Canoe construction and navigation were considered men’s tasks, and most likely specialized to a select few. The learning of these skills were either passed down from father to son, or a part of a young man’s education in the guma’uritao or men’s houses.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Where is the next generation of Chamorro craftsmen and women?

I have finally returned from Guam and after getting myself unpacked and somewhat adjusted back to my own time zone I have to ask one thing. Where is the next generation of Chamorro craftsmen and women coming from? I don't mean those who are making jewelry and other tourist fodder, I mean those who are carrying on the traditional crafts and passing knowledge onto a new generation?

Don't get me wrong. There are some talented people who are turning out beautiful items that can be seen and purchased at the Chamorro Village in Agana. Wednesday evenings during the weekly fiesta, there are many beautiful things to choose. You can also enjoy local musicians, dancing, native dancers, plus really great food. Along with local vendors selling locally made crafts there are other vendors selling crafts from neighboring islands as well. Wednesday night at the Chamorro Village is a must see when in Guam. Go early, around 4:30-5pm to find good parking.

With everything available at the Chamorro Village, what I have not found, with one exception are traditional Chamorro arts and crafts. No weavers, no pottery, no demonstrations by artist and crafters, no one making nets or demonstrating net casting, no stories being told. What you can find are things like imported plastic Tiki gods with GUAM imprinted on the bottom. Tiki's!? Really? Tiki's are not even Chamorro. Again, don't get me wrong. I bought some nice locally made jewelry. I am merely marveling at the lack of cultural crafts and craftsmen/women and the abundance of key fobs, puka shells and T-shirts promoting the "671 Chamorro Style" commercialism.

Currently Guam is without a Natural History Museum. There are however a number of private collections, some in  hotels or other tourist attractions and a few items on display at the Governor's complex. I also had an opportunity to visit Gef Pago, a small cultural center on the south side of the island that had some of what I was looking for. There were demonstrations in pandanus and coconut leaf weaving, coconut candy making, rendering salt from sea water and rope making. The craftsmen and women were beautiful, friendly and very generous. They were also elderly. This is where my question comes from. Where is the next generation of cultural crafters and masters coming from? What happens when these Chamorros pass on.

One traditional, 'old school' master craftsman in the Chamorro Village was Tun Jack Lujan. The only surviving pre WWII blacksmith. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Tun Jack last year and passed up buying a hand made Chamorro Machete. Ever since then I have been on the lookout for his work with no luck so it was off to the Chamorro Village to order up a machete of my own.

I was disappointed to find out that Tun Jack was not at the Chamorro Village and is no longer able to make the machete from start to finish anymore. I remember the conversation I had with Mr. Lujan last year. He told us that there had been 16 or so apprentices who have tried to learn his craft and to date, no one had been able to reproduce his work. Tun Jack told us that it is because they do not love the craft. The machete and other tools are still available but one of the crafters we spoke to admitted he was unable to reproduce the same quality. I kicked myself really hard for not jumping at the opportunity last year.

As mentioned earlier, with no history museum... actually a new museum is going to be built and the stock of artifacts not owned by private collectors is currently in storage except for a few at the Governor's complex right next to the Latte Stone of Freedom. The one article I was most interested in with my being a slinger and sling maker was a sling I have only seen in pictures. I was elated to see the very sling in person. I was so glad it was not in storage with everything else.  

There were a few funny things I found about the sling and weaving in general. First the young person attending the small compliment of exhibits did not know much about any of them and even less about the sling. I had assumed that the sling on display was a reproduction and asked if it was known who crafted the sling and whether they might be available on the island. The young attendant did not know but did tell us that a master weaver was selling slings in the Chamorro Village. I giggled as I left the display area telling my wife, "Guess what? I am now a Master Weaver." Mine are the only slings currently being sold at the Che'Lu Store in the Chamorro Village which by the way is open seven days a week so stop in where you'll find some of the most unique crafts available in all of Guam. Tell them you heard about it here.

So again and in closing, where are the master weavers and carvers and potters and blacksmiths? Who is stepping up to carry on? I asked everyone I could and still cannot attach a name to a craft outside of Gef Pago and no one under the age of 60. Where are the young Chamorro crafters?