Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pago Slings

On my latest trip to Guam I learned that pago (Wild Hibiscus) bark is one of the preferred fibers for making rope. I want to elaborate more on this topic later but since it's been a while since my last posting I am going to make this short. As I mentioned before my phone, which is my camera was damaged by seawater and all my good photos were lost so I can't show in pictures my adventures in gathering and processing pago.

What I was told was that pago is resistant to seawater and infact, pago fibers should first be cured in the sea before they are used because they actually become stronger through the process of curing with salt water.

Unfortunately because of time constraints I was unable to adequately cure the pago I cut from the jungle in salt water before hanging it to dry before packing it up to bring back to the Mainland. In fact, the pago was still damp when I packed it and fortuantely it passed through customs and since January has been drying out on my porch.

When we were in Guam, I had the opportunity to view the only surviving Chamorro sling from ancient times known to be in existance.

Up until then I had only seen the sling in pictures. Naturally I assumed based off of the slingstone artifacts I had seen that the sling was of average size. What I learned was that the sling was much larger and the stone shown in its pouch was about the size of a potato or typical dinner roll. The size of the sling gave me much needed insight into its construction. I had always assumed that the sling was constructed using a five-strand braid but upon close inspection, the number of strands used is not five. I've been working on reproducing the exact braid and have come very close but there still seems to be something not quite right about the finished product.

The curator of the displays at the Governor's complex was very helpful and told us that the sling was believed to be made of coconut fiber. In examining the sling it was obvious to me that the sling was not made of the fiber from the husk and probably not from the palm leaves either. When I asked he said that it was theorized that the fiber came from the trunk of the coconut tree. I plan on testing that theory. In the mean time my personal theory is that the sling is not made of husk fiber and definately not from pandanus. Pandanus seems good for matting and for baskets but for a sling it tears apart too easily. I know this from making a number of slings from pandanus and it is definately not durable enough to hold together for a sling. So, my current theory is pago.

Armed with that theory, I hit the jungles of Yigo and collected pago.

I was only able to soak the pago in salt water for a short while before hanging it out to dry. With the humid climate of Guam it took quite a while.

Before leaving Guam I was able to weave one sling using the pago I had collected.

Another important fact learned was that the Chamorro sling likely had a wrist loop rather than the smaller finger loop. This makes sense because to sling large stones, the finger loop would not be practicle. Too much stress on the finger and the wrist loop is much more comfortable for slinging  heavy stone.
More to come....

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