1 February 2018

Fan

All of us have random objects that seem to travel with us through life like silent companions.

Back in 1973, I left the South Pacific island of Rotuma with an armful of gifts. One of these was a fan made by a grandmother who lived in the same village as me - Motusa. It was made from palm leaf strands and for a little while I watched as she deftly wove the thing into shape. No doubt she was employing techniques that she had learnt from a previous generation.

As tourists never visited Rotuma in those far off days, palm fans were purely functional - for everyday use and not for sale to cruise passengers or passing beachcombers seeking paradise. As well as creating draughts of cool air, the fans were useful for batting away flies - from sleeping babies or from little foot wounds acquired on fishing expeditions to the coral  reef.

Nowadays the fan sits on a picture shelf in our hallway. Most days I don't even see it but today I took it down and admired the simplicity of the design - testament to the craftsmanship of western Polynesia. The woman who made it must be long dead but a little part of her persists on the other side of the planet  - here in the suburbs of  one of England's great northern cities.

When I notice it I can recall the coconut palms fringing Mofmanu beach, the aroma of roasting copra, the blue Pacific surf crashing on the reef and those sweet village voices joined in harmony rising up to the rafters of the meeting house. It was long ago and far from here.

21 comments:

  1. What an awesome piece of craftsmanship!

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    1. The things they could do with the coconut palm! So clever.

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  2. I'm surprised you haven't worn it away with the constant wafting you have to do to keep cool in sunny Yorkshire!
    It's a lovely thing and a lovely thing that you appreciate it.

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    1. Very naughty humour in the first remark but I forgive you!

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  3. Its shape looks very practical too. It is pretty, like a piece of art.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. Could be very useful in Hot Italy in the summertime.

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  4. That's a beautiful fan. I was going to ask for pictures of you on Rotuma, but I thought I remembered that you'd posted some before, and I was right! So never mind.

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    1. It's nice to be able to check back through somebody's blog by using the search facility.

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  5. That is a beautiful work of art.

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    1. I believe that its maker never thought of herself as an artist. She will have thought she was simply producing a household item.

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  6. What a fabulous place to have visited. You are certainly well travelled.

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    1. I was eighteen when I went there - for a year.

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  7. If your daughter had told you, when she was 18, that she wanted to go to live on a small island in the South Pacific, would you have you said, Righty-ho -- I'll drive you to the airport?

    Parents were so easy going back when we were kids.

    I have been thinking a lot, these past two weeks, about how the art world does not value mastery of materials any m ore. Your fan would definitely be out of the running for consideration as an object of art because it's too well made. Art has to be purposefully poorly made, badly drawn, horribly painted, or amateurishly sculpted. I don't get it. Your fan is so perfect -- there is such knowledge in each fiber.

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    1. Interesting reflections. Yes. In the preparation of the palm fibres and in the turning and twisting of each one of them there was a legacy that harked back to the first Polynesians who went out into that vast ocean.

      If my daughter had wanted to follow in my island footsteps I would have been happy to support her.

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  8. In Charleston, SC at the waterfront market you can have a sweetgrass basket woven for you on the spot by Gullah women. They're beautiful and use-able works of art, but terribly expensive--as they should be, considering how their ancestors (who handed down the craft) first arrived in Charleston.

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    1. I didn'tknow what "Gullah" meant. I had to look it up. Unlike the woman who made my fan, your women have bills to pay in the modern world. Now onder they charge high prices.

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  9. I hope the fan remains long in your family, Yorkie. It's beautiful.

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  10. So beautifully made - you were lucky to receive this. The time you spent on the island must be a prized memory, I would think.

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    1. I didn't realise it at the time but the sights and sounds of Rotuma have lived with me and continue to impact upon my life and the way I see things.

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  11. It was funny to open up your blog and see a familiar item in the picture....not what I expected from a Yorkshire blog! I have a few of those fans too, although from Samoa. Still very useful when I go to funerals here in Hawaii to fan myself in church or keep the sun off my face while at grave side. Enjoyed looking at the old post you wrote about Rotuma and recognize the feelings from many years on Pacific islands myself. Aloha

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.