Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/321

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xvi.]
299
Houses.

house, is in construction the same, but larger, stronger, and furnished with openings in the sides as well as doorways at the ends. The roofing is thatch of the smaller sago-palm, which makes an excellent roof, and the preparation and fixing of which is the chief work of house-building. The palm frond, with its midrib removed, and the leaflets doubled over a reed, and pinned together with wooden skewers, or spikes from the base of sago fronds (the Malay atap), is in all the islands what a tile or slate or shingle is elsewhere. In the Solomon Islands the cocoa-nut frond is also used, the lesser sago being apparently unknown. The roofing there, however, is very fine, the ataps being laid very close together, and the thatch extremely thick in the large buildings such as the canoe-houses. These, oha in Malanta and San Cristoval, kiala in Florida and Ysabel, to which the Santa Cruz madai and ofilau correspond, are fine and spacious buildings; the kiala at Kolakamboa in Florida was a hundred feet long by fifty wide, and fifty high; an oha, in Ugi and San Cristoval at least, was decorated with all the skill of the noteworthy native artist[1]. In these the large canoes are kept, men congregate and young men sleep, strangers are entertained, the huge wooden bowls used in feasts are kept, the jawbones of pigs eaten or killed in such feasts are suspended, and the skulls of men killed in war, and sometimes no doubt also eaten in the place, are hung up; in the oha also are the mangite of the dead (page 262). The posts which support the ridge-pole and the purlins of an oha are carved into figures of men, crocodiles and sharks; a kiala is much less ornamented. A Solomon Island dwelling-house is certainly superior to one in the Eastern groups; its walls are higher, it is more generally partitioned into chambers, and it is furnished with

    are built very long, and have slight divisions in them, sledom more than twoo feet high.'—Bishop Selwyn, Journal, 1882.

  1. Brenchley's 'Cruise of the Curaçoa,' chap. xvi; Guppy's 'Solomon Islands,' chap. iv. I have never seen any ornamentation so elaborate and interesting as that of an oha at Wango, long since fallen into decay.