Volume 84 1975 > Volume 84, No. 1 > Games on a Polynesian Outlier island: a case study of the implications of cultural change, by Rolf Kuschel, p 25-66
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The article presented here contains a description of games and play activities which were prevalent among children and adults on Bellona, an island in the British Solomon Islands, before contact with the outside world in 1938. Culturally alien games, which have since displaced most of the genuine Bellonese games, are also described. Not incorporated are the numerous Christian hymns as well as the non-religious songs (liikoti) which one constantly hears on the islands. This presentation not only attempts to preserve knowledge of the original games, but also points to some determinants which appear to have promoted the introduction of the new games at the cost of the original Bellonese ones. 1

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Judging from Avedon and Sutton-Smith's comprehensive bibliography 2, few thorough investigations of games dealing with non-European societies have appeared. It is as if social anthropologists have regarded this subject as more pertinent to social psychology whose representatives, on the other hand, too often have regarded this field as being “irrelevant for psychological study.” 3 By thus being placed in the limbo between two scientific disciplines much information has regretfully been lost. This applies especially to the collection of data concerning the original games in different geographically isolated societies: that is to say, those games which existed before contact was established with the Western world. The scarcity of such primary material makes it difficult to understand the processes by which culture change transforms or even possibly suppresses the original games. A single investigation is, however, available from Sutton-Smith. Taking as a starting point the New Zealand Maoris' games before and after contact with the European culture, Sutton-Smith came to the conclusion:

“. . . that in the new cultural environment provided by the meeting of these two cultures, there has been a tendency for the unique pastimes of the submerged culture to be cancelled out, and for the pastimes which both cultures shared to be strengthened. But this tendency has been affected by yet another influence which has been stronger than the re-emphasis given by each culture to the analogous traits in the other. This other influence has been the influence of organized sport which has tended to cancel out all the minor games of both cultures irrespective of their nature.” 4


The present investigation was carried out in 1971-72 on Bellona, an uplifted coral atoll in the British Solomons, barely 30 square kilometres in area, and with a maximum altitude of 80 metres. Far from all travel routes and outside of the large shipping lanes, the island was, until 1938, nearly untouched by other cultures. Even though the population, which at that time consisted of 428 persons, formally gave up its old religion and adopted the Christian one shortly before the Second World War, it was still 10 or 15 years before more regular contact with the rest of the world was established. In the years which have passed since the introduction of Christianity, the population has doubled.

The collection of data which is the basis of this investigation took place rather casually in the beginning. I simply wrote down the games observed among the children while I was primarily engaged in collecting data concerning other aspects of their culture.

I first became seriously interested in the subject near the end of my nearly year-long stay on the island, after which I began to collect systematically. As informants, I used sometimes the children themselves and - 27 sometimes adults. When the children first found out that I was interested in their activities, they invited me to take part in the games. In these situations the children fortunately appeared to forget my presence and their activities seemed immediately to go on in the same way I had noted during the phase of less systematic collection. The few games which the adults played in the old days—and which are also included in this paper—I had the opportunity to observe at a New Year's celebration in the village of Ngongona on January 6, 1972. In the afternoon, when the village swarmed with people from many parts of the island, some of the adults started to play the games they had played at larger gatherings like this in the old days.

As will be evident from the following, a number of the games which were played before 1938 are no longer in use. I obtained information about these by talking with some of the older men of the island who themselves had played them as children. They were always ready to tell about them as well as demonstrate them. Song games were recorded on tape, the texts written down and in as much as possible translated and annotated.


Among researchers who are concerned with games, a distinction is made between plays, games, pastimes, jokes, and sport. Such a linguistic distinction is not found in Bellonese, in which a single expression, babangenga, covers all of the forms of activity named here; the verbal form is babange with babange 'anga as the nominalised form of the verb. 5

Rather than attempt to fit the Bellonese activities into Western created matrices corresponding to the above conceptions, I prefer to present the collected data with reference to the Bellonese classification and leave the reader free to order the material as desired.

The written description of a topic such as children's play activities can seldom do complete justice to the subject because of the great detail required. The more organised games: namely those which follow definite rules every time they are performed, are the best represented in the account given here. The description of the more informal and unorganised game activities which are not subject to definite rules, is brief and not very detailed.


As will be shown below, the most important determinants of the changes which have occurred in the games since 1938 are outside-induced changes in residential pattern. In the pre-Christian period, Bellonese settlements were spread out over large parts of the island along an east-west axis. On the north as well as the south side of this, at intervals of between one and several hundred metres, nuclear families had their own settlements which were usually separated from the neighbouring settlements by thick bush with only a tiny trail as a communication artery. Persons belonging to the - 28 same patrilineal group often had adjacent residences. In 1938, there were approximately 80 such settlements on Bellona. Interaction between settlements was not especially widespread, unless their inhabitants were close kinsmen on good terms with one another. But a Bellonese usually had to have an acceptable reason to go to another settlement. Taupongi explains: “In former days (people) did not just walk freely about, because of fear that perhaps the person would be killed, or the person would be possessed and get sick and die.” 6

A settlement consisted of an almost circular clearing in the bush and measured 30 to 40 metres in diameter or less. At the edge of the settlement close to the bush, there was often found a single hut (hata) with a separate cookhouse which was placed behind the hut, the front of which faced the main trail. The hut's ground area varied between 18.8 square metres (5.6 × 3.4 m) and 6.1 square metres (3.5 × 1.8 m). On an earth embankment in the terrain or on an artificially created rise, from four to six posts of the hut were placed in the ground. On these a large roof made of long, hanging pandanus leaves was placed. The hut had no walls on any of the sides. Directly outside the front was the ritual ground. This was more or less in the form of a half circle with a diameter a little wider than the length of the house.

The settlement itself held relatively few possibilities for play because of the many taboos connected with it. No play could take place in the middle of the trail, nor could anyone sit there for fear that the gods might visit the settlement. The ritual ground itself could be used neither as a play area nor even as a place to stay, but only for the performance of rituals. As long as they were not too noisy, the children could play at the two sides of the hut, but because these areas were also regarded as the temporary residence of the gods, especially in the evening and at night, they could do so only between dawn and dusk. Only the back of the hut and the area between this and the cookhouse (often about 10 m) was suitable for play activities as such. The inside of the cookhouse and the hut were also subject to certain restrictions. It was believed that a supernatural being with the name Ngeobiongo watched to see that the women did their work properly in the cookhouse and that they did not eat too much of the food intended for the gods and for the men of the house. Nor were there great opportunities for play inside the hut. The front part was, as mentioned, very taboo because many ritual objects were placed there. And the middle of the hut was also taboo because here minor rituals were performed. Taken as a whole, the old habitations were not especially suitable as playgrounds for children. On the other hand, it was not accepted for smaller children to slip out of the settlement and into the bush to play. Fear and uncertainty concerning people and supernatural beings that could inflict harm was great and could well result in a sound thrashing from the adults if a child ventured too far from the settlement alone or even with other children.

In addition to the settlement as described above, a family could have one or several other temporary dwelling places. These dwelling places could lie either deeper in the bush on the top of the innermost of the two - 29 coral reefs which surround the island, or near the sea. At the bush homestead (manaha mouku), the stony coral ground to some degree limited the children's forms of play. Certain games, such as walking on hands (hiti 'anga) for example, or wrestling (hetakai) were very seldom performed on the uneven or rocky surface. Nevertheless, the children were demonstratively more happy to live here than in the main settlement, one of the reasons being that there were fewer taboos to be respected—partly because there was no ritual ground and partly because ritual objects in quantities or of a type comparable with those at the main settlement were not kept in the bush settlements. Dwelling places near the sea were the children's favourites, especially if access to the sea was not made difficult by the steep and sharp uplifted corals that ring the island. Gardens were also popular playgrounds. Not only was there earth to dig and play with, but it was easy to imitate the activities of parents who were working.

After contact began with the outside world in 1938, and especially after the old religion was given up and Christianity was accepted, there occurred drastic changes in the residence pattern of the Bellonese. The old residential form, where the settlements lay spread out over a great part of the island, was replaced by more concentrated residential forms. The people moved together into larger villages. At the instigation of those who introduced Christianity to the island 7 many Bellonese moved to Ngongona, a settlement approximately in the middle of the island, around their new sanctuary, the church of the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). After a brief period of village life, families moved back to their own settlements or built new settlements in the vicinity of Ngongona. This continued until about 1949 when a Melanesian called Ngeela by the Bellonese came to the island and for several months resided as official SDA missionary. His idea was to revive the centralised residential form. He would make it obligatory for all members of the SDA mission to live in Ngongona. Everyone who belonged to the same church should live in the same place. The Bellonese were at first strongly opposed to this idea and claimed among other things that it would be too far from their dwelling place to their gardens and canoes and that they would not be at someone else's mercy by living on another's plot of land. The result was a compromise, in that three SDA villages were established, one on each end of the island and one in the middle. The numerically smaller South Seas Evangelical Mission (SSEM) copied this system and established two villages which, because of internal disputes, have since expanded to three. After a number of moves back and forth, the final result was that in 1972 there were six larger villages on Bellona. In a characteristic village, as for example, Matahenua, there are 18 inhabited huts, all centred around a church. In these 18 huts, live 76 people grouped as follows: 9 children of 0-5 years; 15 children of 5-10 years; 21 youths of 10-20 years; 29 adults of 20-50 years; and two elderly people who are over 70 years of age.

Not only the structure of the residential form but also the individual huts have undergone important transformations. Most of the huts are now, - 30 in imitation of Melanesian custom, built on platforms nearly two metres above the earth. The floor is made of bamboo or European hewn boards. The four walls are thatched with leaves. The new huts are much more spacious than the old ones. None of the earlier taboos, which in the old days were bound to the settlements, has been transferred to the new. Everyone, adults as well as children, can move freely everywhere, inside and outside the hut as well as in the church.

This brief account of the residential pattern before and after contact with the outside world shows that rather sweeping changes have occurred. Whereas in the past, 5 or 6 children lived in one and the same dwelling—often with great differences in age—now up to 30 children may live at the same settlement and many are of the same age group.


In the pre-Christian period, Bellonese children's games and activities were dependent to a very high degree on the parents' activities as well as on weather conditions. Smaller children were never left to themselves. The general behaviour pattern was that children followed their parents to work and were not segregated in an artificial way from the adults' working life. If the weather was fine and it was the season for garden work, the children would follow their parents out to the gardens where trees had to be felled and burned, the subsoil cleared of the vigorous growth of the bush, and roots or tubers planted in the stony earth. At other times, when the sea was calm, the children would accompany their parents down to the sea, where the father would go out to fish while the mother would prepare the earth ovens.

When it was rainy, the adults seldom went to the garden or to the sea, but often sat in the dwelling and repaired their tools or fishing tackle, cut or carved clubs or ritual objects such as spears and paddles, or plaited ropes from the inner bark of the Hibiscus tiliaceus or coconut fibres.

The children often accompanied their parents to the cult grounds for the performance of certain rituals in the temples. The father would go into the temple and take part in the ritual ceremonies, while the woman, together with the child, would sit and wait for the conclusion of the ceremony, sometimes in a little temporary hut built behind the temple.

During leisure hours, story-telling was a favourite pastime. Distinct children's stories, such as we know in Western culture, are not known on Bellona, though there seems to have been a partiality for telling the children stories about animals and about mythical cultural-heroes such as Mauitikitiki. These stories were often explanatory, as for example, why the swiftlet flies in zig-zag movements, why the Pacific rat's run is characterised by small hops, and why shark meat, with the exception of the liver, has a rancid taste. 8 But the children also heard old kinship stories; they heard about greater and lesser events and incidents which had taken place on the island during the 23 generations remembered by the old folk since the - 31 immigration to the island. It was through this listening to the adults' tales that the children acquired their genealogical and cultural-historical knowledge. 9

The adults' narrative could often stretch over hours. Old people, who on sleepless nights sat and told stories loudly for themselves or for others, were often the source of inspiration for children's activities; very many translated what they had heard into their play the next day, where they identified themselves with persons from the stories. A good description of this is found in a paper prepared by Joseph Puia while at school in England. 10 Puia, (who was born during the Second World War) tells how as a child he listened to the elders' tales and thereafter objectified them into his plays. Puia writes:

However, time at home was not all that, for I was taught by my uncle many useful skills, such as fishing, hunting, gardening and the like. He and his wife were good story tellers, so they used to tell me about fairies who were known as hitis and were believed to be the gods of the sea and crops. All these stories had stirred up my imagination and had encouraged me to want to do things that I heard other people do. Some of my play activities were basically what I heard from stories the night before. Having heard about people fighting in the stories I would take my small axe to strike and cut either a banana trunk or a pawpaw tree, imagining I was fighting another person. At other times my two friends and I would have imaginative fights in which we used to wrestle and pull on our hair until we felt we could not go on any further.

While there was much which could be dramatised in this way through play, story-telling also constituted an important part of a child's education, as there were no formal schools or instruction on the island.

People accustomed to living on a continent might think that living on a little Pacific island which is no more than 10 km long and maximally 3 km wide (7 by 1½ miles) would result in children spending a large portion of their time by the sea. In old Bellona this was far from the case, because it was chiefly those who lived at the oblong island's two ends who went down to the sea. There were many reasons why those who lived in the island's central district did not go down to the water so frequently. The most important was anxiety about entering other families' territories because of the risk of creating feuds. Another reason was the fear of passing taboo areas. It was generally accepted that the protection of one's own god was stronger in one's own district. Thus, moving too far away from one's own - 32 settlement always involved a potential danger. This fear conveyed itself to the children, who never dared to go down to the sea by themselves. It was apparently a great experience for children living near the two ends of the island to go down to the beach. Older children would sail around in their canoes and often take smaller children on tours; this was accepted by the adults so long as the children stayed within the reef. Other children sailed miniature sailboats (baka selo) made of a piece of roughly hewn wood in the middle of which were fastened one or two vertical sticks which served as masts. Sails were made of plants found on the beach. Other children played “fish” (see game 1.5), others would dive (see game 1.4), and still others would collect shells on the beach (see game 1.6). Very popular, too, was slapping the water with both hands and thus generating waves (koko).


The collected games will be described below. The Bellonese name for each game is translated into English as close to the Bellonese meaning as possible. Usually the literal meaning of the word is given. In rare situations where the same game forms are found in our own culture, these names have been used and the literal meaning of the Bellonese word is given.

The games described below are claimed by the Bellonese to be of genuine Bellonese character. None of the inhabitants recollects that any of these games has been introduced from other cultures. Games which have been introduced will be described as such. Games are discussed in ascending order from those played by the youngest children to those reserved for the older men. More specific age-differentiations are not given because such distinctions are not found on Bellona.

1.1 Lizard running (hakatenge hokai)

This is a game for small children who climb up a little incline or a slanted board or tree trunk and let themselves slide down on all fours like

Lizard running (hakatenge hokai); game 1.1. Tepuke is the name of the artist, though I doubt he means it as a self-portrait. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua, Bellona Island.
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a lizard. For reasons unknown to the Bellonese, this game has disappeared today.

1.2 Staring (helangalanga'aki; lit., “staring at each other”)

Chiefly a game for small children. Two children sit opposite each other and stare at each other without blinking (bingi mata). The one who blinks first has lost.

This behaviour is also known and widespread among adults but in such cases it is a little more than a game. If it occurs between two persons of the opposite sex, it is an expression of flirting or sexual desire from the starer's side. In the vicinity of other persons this non-verbal communication goes on in an extremely discreet way.

1.3 Tickling (langalangau te 'unga; lit., “lobster crawling”)

A game which is played in pairs by small children. Two children sit opposite each other. One of them brushes very lightly with his fingertips against the other child's head, face or body with the sole goal of getting the opponent to laugh. If this succeeds, the roles are changed.

1.4 Breath-holding (manaba ngoa)

At a given sign all of the children take a deep breath and try to hold it as long as possible. The game is also carried out in the water, where the object is to be under water as long as possible without coming up to breathe.

1.5 Fishing (hai kaui)

This game generally springs up spontaneously when small children are splashing at the water's edge. The children hold each other's hands and form a circle. Inside the circle a single child swims around and pretends to be a fish. Simultaneously he tries to force his way through the other children's arms and legs in order to escape “the net”, that is, the hands which are held together.

Joseph Puia writes about it: “I used to love this game in which I would often be nicknamed a ‘shark’ because I had a habit of biting any child who had caught me in order to get away from the net (boys holding hands).” 11

1.6 Shell collections (No Bellonese name recorded)

Besides being used as playthings, shells of different kinds are collected and arranged in patterns on the beach, or to compete about who has found the most, the largest or the rarest shell. The shells one finds most frequently are turban shells ('angingi), top shells (balibali or tamalabe), and occasionally the operculum of the cat's eye (mata o te 'angingi mata saba). Children often display much fantasy in their sea shell patterns on the beach. In Fig. 2 are reproduced some examples taken from Puia. 12

1.7 Sikingimoemoe's counting game (te taunga babange a Sikingimoemoe)

This is the only form of counting game for children which is found on the island. It is said to be of very early origin. Small children, from two

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Patterns as laid during shell collections; game 1.6. The figure in the upper right corner is a stylised form of the frigate bird, a motif one finds again in the ceremonial spear (tao hakasanisani) and in the tattooing pattern, see Birket-Smith 1956:42, Fig. e—g.) Drawing made by Joseph Puia, Niupani, Rennell Island.

years of age and upwards, play this with an adult or larger child who has learned to count and remembers all or part of the rhyme which appears below.

Grown-up: One, oh! Tasi, kaa!
Child: One, oh! Tasi, kaa!
Grown-up: Two, oh! Ngua, kaa!
Child: Two, oh! Ngua, kaa!
Grown-up: Three, muu! Tongu, muu!
Child: Three, muu! Tongu, muu!
Grown-up: Blow here! Hati mai!
Child: Blow here! Hati mai!
Grown-up: To where? Noko i hea?
Child: To where? Noko i hea?
Grown-up: To here! Noko i koo!
Child: To here! Noko i koo!
Grown-up: Touching, oh! There! Paa, kaa, koo!
Child: Touching, oh! There! Paa, kaa, koo!
Grown-up: Tii, tii! Tii, tii!
Child: Tii, tii! Tii, tii!
Grown-up: Maanai! Maanai!
Child: Maanai! Maanai!
Grown-up: Pinching Pingii!
Child: Pinching Pingii!
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After this the adult or larger child tickles the small child who is convulsed with laughter. Frequently the child collapses in laughter long before the rhyme is finished and before he is tickled. 13

Sikingimoemoe is the name of one of the pre-Christian female gods. It is not known why her name is connected with this game. The words muu and maanai in the song are meaningless.

1.8 Push over (he'aka'aki)

This game has different variations, one chiefly played by smaller children and another by larger children. The smaller children's game usually takes place at the beach. Two groups place themselves around a small elevation in the terrain or on opposite sides of a fallen tree trunk. One or more children stand on top of the elevation and at a given signal the children from the two groups try to push down the child or children on top of the elevation.

The same game may also take place in the lagoon where the children group themselves around a coral slab or floating tree trunk. In another variation the children push each other until one of them falls over. This seems especially exciting just after a rain when the ground is slippery and muddy. The one who falls over is out of the game. When only two children are left, the rest will make a circle around them and the two finalists each attempt to make their opponent lose balance and fall on his behind. The one who has won remains standing. The game is then repeated.

Larger children will seat themselves in a ring on the ground with stretched legs pointing towards the ring's centre. Another group stands

Children playing push over (he'aka'aki); game 1.8. The arrows indicate the direction of the pushing. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua, Bellona Island.
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behind the backs of those who are sitting. In the centre of the ring stands a person who closes his eyes and who at the same time stiffens his limbs. Those seated, as well as those standing, will now push and thrust his person in all possible directions with their hands. When he or she loses balance or breaks down with laughter, somebody else takes over his place. This game is said to be very old. Originally the participants shouted at each other, whereas they now-a-days sing lalele, lalele, lalele. In contrast with pre-Christian times when only youths participated in this game, one can today see married men and women taking part.

1.9 Travelling far in a canoe (haahaa)

This game is taken from the adult world. It imitates the adults' behaviour in pre-Christian times when, on rare occasions, men set out in their canoes on voyages to the neighbour island Rennell or in a very few cases to the more than 100-mile-distant island, Guadalcanal. Imitating the adults, the children make great preparations for the departure. They ready the canoe's different parts such as struts and rigging; they search for empty coconut shells to use as bailers; they look for small pieces of rope and they make earth ovens to prepare food, which will be used both to fill the stomachs of the men before the departure and to take along as provisions on the trip.

The earth oven ('umu) was either made in an imaginary way, with stones and shells symbolising taro and fish wrapped in leaves and simply laid in the sun, or miniature earth ovens were made. In such cases, the children could either go out in the bush and collect edible plants, or, in the cook-houses, take small uncooked bits of yams, sweet potatoes, taro, or whatever else could be found. Imitating the adults, they would make a real but small earth oven. This they covered with leaves and earth and waited until the food was finished.

Puia drew my attention to an important matter which I had completely overlooked when I collected material about this play activity, namely the question of how the children actually knew when the food was finished. In his previously mentioned paper, Puia gives the following description:

Children must know when they should open up the oven ('umu). If time estimation is wrong the food (sweet potatoes, pana, taro, etc.) is usually uncooked or halfcooked. How do they tell the time? They work out time in several ways. Some children, after covering their 'umu sit down and tell stories, and when the first or second story ends they know it is time to open up the 'umu. Others time theirs by having walked a certain distance twice. Lastly other children watch the position of the sun and the shadows of trees. They will almost always be right in their time estimation. 14

When one knows how much the Bellonese loathe half-cooked or raw food, one can well understand that this is a very important point in the entire food preparation process even during play. The Bellonese loathing is so great that if a wife serves her husband half-cooked food more than - 37 once, he may send her back to her own settlement; that is, the husband demands a divorce.

When all the preparations for the children's imaginary voyage are made, the canoe with all of the provisions is put in the water and the children fantasise all of the dangers they meet on the way: storm-filled nights, with the sea washing in over the gunwale, crews who are exhausted after the many exertions and who have been without food or water for several days, sharks which steadily follow in the canoe's wake, etc.

1.10 Tree climbing (te ingi)

Ingi is a general term for climbing or walking through the tight and nearly impenetrable bush. Bellonese children will either chase each other in the dense bush by climbing from tree to tree or they will build nests in the dense branches, using these as starting points for their games. Sometimes the children even eat and sleep in their nests. Parents, brothers and sisters, and other adults often have to search for a long time for the children, when they have fallen asleep in one of their hideaways. As a child, Puia and his playmates also enjoyed this game very much. Puia writes:

Nest making was one of his play activities. When we both climbed trees he would pretend to be a large bird and would build a nest on top of a tree. He built the nest with dry-branches and leaves, and a few round fruits acted as a substitute for the eggs. Then we sat on the nest pretending that we were birds. It was great fun. 15

One of the other occupations children have when they stay in their nests is to attempt to hang on to a larger branch with their feet and let their bodies hang down in order to move from branch to branch just like a flying fox. This is called tau ghoghii. If one climbs from tree to tree holding on to the branches by the hands alone, it is called lunu.

1.11 Fern-coil tearing (hai ghau bangitia)

Ghau bangitia is the name of rolled-up, unblossomed fern leaves, when these still have a spiral-like form. The game is clearly a two-child game but can, nevertheless, be played by several participants, who then separate into groups and play in pairs. Every child collects a bunch of these spiral fern leaves, the stronger the better. If a child has the luck to find one which looks especially strong, this is often hidden among the others in such a way that when the game begins one's opponent cannot see it in advance. Sitting opposite each other, each child chooses one of his spiral fern leaves, holds tightly on to the non-curled end and holds it out to his opponent. The two ghau bangitia are now carefully woven into each other, after which both parties pull hard. The one whose ghau bangitia breaks has lost. The winner carefully picks the opponents remaining piece from his “hook” and lays it by his side. The loser now takes a new ghau bangitia and the play is repeated, as the winner must often continue to use the unbroken ghau bangitia as long as possible. However, he may well replace it with another if he wishes. The game continues until one of the parties has no more ghau bangitia, after which each player counts up the pieces won.

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Fern-coil tearing (hai ghau bangitia); game 1.11. The drawing on top of the figure shows the very common fern Nephrolepis triserrata (Sw.) Schott (bangitia); the coils (ghau) used in the game are seen as behind the children. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matehenua, Bellona Island.
1.12 Ant pinching (kubikubi ngoo'ata)

This old game, which is said to date all the way back to the time when a mythological aboriginal population (hiti) lived on Bellona, was, until contact with the outside world, a much loved and popular game with the children.

Any number of players arrange themselves in a ring on the ground and lay their clenched fists on top of each other in such a way that the hand's thumb and index finger pinch the back of the hand which lies under it. The only one who does not pinch someone is the one whose hand lies at the bottom of the pile. When all of the fists are lain on top of each other in the manner described here, all of the participants sing the following:

Pinching ant, Kubikubi ngoo'ata
Pass up, how many times? 'Aabake hia?
Pass up, three times! 'Aabake tongu!
Spread out, spread out! Hohonga, hohonga!
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The translation given here is tentative as the informants were not completely certain of the meaning of the words.

At the last word, hohonga, the bottommost hand is opened and lain flat against the earth. The song is repeated and at its conclusion the next lowest one lays his hand flat, so that there now lie two outstretched hands at the bottom and closed hands on top. The whole thing is repeated until all hands are stretched completely out, still lying on top on one another. The game as such is finished but the players often continue with the game “tap your faeces”(1.13).

The game seems to entertain the participants very much; for the smaller children it was often combined with pinching the underlying fist a little harder than necessary. It was rare, however, for someone to pinch so hard that the recipient gave a shout of rage or pain.

1.13 Tap your faeces (kini ou ta'e)

After the conclusion of “ant pinching”, the participants sit in a circle and strike their fingertips against each other, one by one. They begin by hitting the tips of the thumbs against each other while at the same time the participants sing:

Tap your faeces! Kini ou ta'e!
Tap your faeces! Kini ou ta'e!

When the song is finished the index fingers are struck against each other and they again sing:

Tap your faeces! Kini ou ta'e!
Tap your faeces! Kini ou ta'e!

This is continued by striking the middle finger, ring finger and little finger against each other. After this the game is finished. The song itself has no meaning. The Bellonese claim that it is just a play on words without any deeper meaning. Psychoanalytically oriented readers probably will object. The word ta'e “faeces” is perfectly proper.

1.14 Swinging (hai ngenge)

The ancient tradition of making a swing (ngenge) in a tree for younger children is still widespread on Bellona. As “rope”, the bark of Hibiscus is used, but no seat is constructed and the children hold on with their hands. The swings are often made by the parents, either in the immediate proximity of their dwelling or on the edge of their plots of earth or gardens. If a tree is close enough to the water the children will often make a small swing here, which makes it possible for them to swing out over the water into which they let themselves fall. This has been illustrated by Joseph Puia.

1.15 To hop on one foot (te siisii ba'e tasi)

The object of this hopping game, which is also known by the shorter designation siisii “to hop”, is that children, from a given starting point, attempt to hop as long a distance as possible on a single leg. Speed plays no role, only the actual length that has been covered. Variations of this game, as for example hopscotch, seem not to have been known on Bellona.

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Swinging (hai ngenge); game 1.14. Holding on to an aerial root the children swing out over the water, probably the Lake on Rennell, where they let themselves fall down. This figure really is a work of art. Drawing made by Joseph Puia, Niupani, Rennell Island.
Skipping rope (hitipoi); game 1.16. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua, Bellona Island.
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1.16 Skipping rope (hitipoi)

Hitipoi literally means “to spring” (hiti) as a grasshopper (poi) does. The Bellonese, emphasise however, that there is a pronounced difference in how grasshoppers and children jump. While the grasshopper hops from place to place, the children hop in the same place.

Skipping is an old Bellonese game which goes innumerable generations back. A rather important part of the game is its flexibility with regard to the number of children who can play it at the same time. It can be played not only by a single child who can skip by himself, but also by several participants—dependent on the length of the vine which is used as a jump rope. This can either be vines of twining plants (kau bango) or aerial roots of Ficus trees (hutia tapaango). These types of vines were known for their wearing qualities. In the dense bush, often near the settlement, they were found in abundance.

The most common form for skipping is that in which two persons stand and each swings his end of the jump rope; the others skip either simultaneously or successively into the turning jump rope where they attempt to avoid stepping on it, touching it, or in any other way stopping its continuous motion. The one who stops the jump rope is out of the game, while the one who can continue longest has won. After this, the roles are usually changed in such a way that those who swing the jump rope are replaced. There are no fixed rules for who shall be replaced at a given moment; most often someone offers voluntarily to swing the rope.

Variations in skipping are introduced by either swinging the rope very slowly (mata ngese), less slowly (mata mi'ipungo) or quickly (pungo bingibingi). In pre-Christian times it was primarily a game for children; today, however, one also sees grown-up women taking part, most often as those who swing the jump rope.

1.17 Tug-of-war (hetata'aki)

In the tug-of-war game, vines (kau bango) or aerial roots of a Ficus tree (hutia tapaango) are used as rope. At a given signal, both sides begin to pull (tata), each at its own end, in order to get the other side to either let go of the rope or to pull them over on its own side. The mischievous element—to purposely let go of the rope in order to see the opponents fall—is also known on Bellona. On festive occasions, tug-of-war was played by adults too.

Tug-of-war (hetata'aki); game 1.17. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua, Bellona Island.
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Today, either an imported plastic cord or clothesline is used as a rope. As a variation, two sticks are set in the earth at a certain distance from each other depending upon the length of the cord. In the middle of the cord, which is located halfway between the two sticks, is tied a cloth, a leaf, or branches that serve as a marker (Fig. 7). The idea is to pull this marker past the stick which stands nearest to one's own group. If this succeeds, one has won.

1.18 Horse-back-riding (baa'aki; hebaa'aki'aki or he'utu'utu'aki).

He'utu'utu'aki literally means “to kick each other, as with the bottom of the foot”. One child sits on another child's back and tries to push the child who sits on a fourth child's back down from this position. The person who carries the other, is called in Bellonese, “the bearer” (te baba). The one who sits on the shoulders or the back, the “rider”, is called “the one who is born on the shoulders” (te baba hongaa uma).

Most common is to have “the rider” sitting on the bearer's shoulders. Often the riders will struggle against each other in pairs; in individual cases, several “riders” can simultaneously attack one and the same “rider”. In their attempt to get the opponent to “fall off the horse” the children use their legs diligently and in this way try to shove the opponent down from his “horse”.

“Horse-back-riding” is chiefly a game for boys; in pre-Christian times it was a very common game, but it is now rapidly disappearing. It is noteworthy that neither horses nor other animals suitable for horse-back riding are found on the island.

1.19 Eating competition (kai hetau)

At times when food is plentiful on the island, competitions are sometimes held as to who can eat most quickly a half pawpaw, a banana, a yam, a banga nut or the like. Normally, the participants in the competition will at a given signal begin to eat as quickly as possible. For the most part, the food is put in the mouth with fingers; only in the rarer cases is a spoon, made of coconut shell or of mother-of-pearl-shell, used.

1.20 Walking on hands (te hiti 'anga)

1.20.1 The ordinary way. The child walks on his hands as far as possible along a relatively even terrain. There, where the child loses balance, a stick is placed in the earth. The next child begins from the same point as the

Walking on hands (hiti 'anga), ordinary way; game 1.20.1. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matehenua, Bellona Island.
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first; if he passes the place where the stick is, the stick is moved to the place where this child loses balance. Each time a child passes the stick it is moved correspondingly. The one who has gone farthest has won (Fig. 8a). The extraordinary way. The children lie in a row parallel to each other (momoe hakatenge) (Fig. 8b) at a distance of about one metre. They hold their hands closely against the body. The child who lies farthest out stands up and begins to walk on his hands over the children who are lying down and attempts to pass over as many as possible without losing balance. If the row of recumbent children is short, or if the one who walks on his hands is especially skilful, he turns around when he has come to the other end. The one who can pass over the most prone children has won. The one who loses his balance lies down at the end of the row opposite to where he started, so that they can climb over the same number of children all the time.

Walking on hands over children lying in a row parallel to each other; game 1.20.2. Drawing made by Dinna Bjørn, Royal Danish Ballet, Copenhagen, Denmark. The extraordinary way. The procedure is the same as described above. The only difference is in the manner in which the children lie. In this variation, the children lie in a long row in longitudinal succession to each other (momoe baangoangoa) (Fig. 8c). The arms lie close along the body and the one who walks on his hands must attempt to walk over the

Walking on hands over children lying in a row in longitudinal succession to each other; Drawing made by Dinna Bjørn, Royal Danish Ballet, Copenhagen, Denmark.
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recumbent children with one hand on each side of the recumbent children's bodies.

Walking on the hands was in the old days a very widespread and popular children's game, and some of the adults living today, as for example Tangei Baitoho from Matahenua village, are known for having been especially good at it as children. Today one very rarely sees children walk on their hands.

Walking on the hands was exclusively a game for children who had not yet begun to wear loincloths. Grown-up men could, in a very few cases and situations, do it, whereas women never did it. While the men could tighten their loincloths so that they hid the sex parts, the manner in which women wore their loincloths was not suited for it. Furthermore, the women would have had to spread their legs. Such behaviour was extremely taboo. Even when women sit down they always keep both legs close together at one side (noho 'omi'omi).

1.21 Rat piling (ta'ota'o kimoa)

This ancient game is found in two versions: a children's version and an adult version, which resemble each other in structure but deviate in concrete content. The adult variation is more formalised and less free in regard to bodily contact with each other than the children's variation.

1.21.1 The children's variation. A child kneels on the earth with his legs drawn up under him and rests his forearms together on the ground. His head is then laid on top of these and his eyes are closed. All the other children, often eight to ten, lay themselves on top of this child, one on top of the other. When everyone is in position a conversation is carried on between the child on the bottom and all the others. The conversation goes on in the following manner:

The child: How many rats have you left? E hia au toe, kimoa?
The children: Three (meaning many)! E tongu!
The child: Leave one for me and get one for the rest of you, won't you? Tuku mai ma'aku tasi kae hai ma'autou tasi, inee?
The children: Yes! 'Oo!
The child: [You will be] defeated! Mate!
[You will be] defeated! Mate!
The children: Yes! 'Oo!
The child: Who ate my arrowroot? Ko ai na kai aku loka?
The children: We [did]! Kimatou!

All the children, with exception of the child who kneels at the bottom of the pile now get up. Then the one still lying down names all the other children one by one. When a child's name is called, the child answers again. The dialogue goes like this:

The child: That's for you Moa! Teenaa ta'au, Moa!
Moa's answer: My faeces! Oku ta'e!
The child: That's for you, Tebengi! Teenaa ta'au, Tebengi!
Tebengi's answer: My faeces! Oku ta'e!
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Thus it continues until all the children have been named. After this everyone runs in different directions to hide, while at the same time the person at the bottom continues to hide his face between his hands, While the children seek cover he says: “Go away and hide, won't you?” All the others shout at one time from their different positions: “Yes.” If there is someone who at that time has not yet found a suitable hiding place, he attempts to drown out the others' “yes” with a “no” while at the same time quickly finding a hiding place. After this, the question about everyone hiding is repeated. If there is no negative answer this time, the child who has lain on the bottom gets up from the earth and imitates a crying child who cannot find his playmates. At the same time he shouts: “Alas! Where have my children gone? Whistle, whistle, I listen!” ('Aiaueee! Kohea ngaa aku tamangiki? Saabini, saabini, saabini, saabini, kau hakangongo!). The children now whistle from their hiding places. If he can find them, or in some other way catches sight of them, he rushes after them and attempts to “eat” them, which is symbolically indicated by him letting his finger slide over a part of the prisoner's face or body, with great shouting and screaming from the prisoner. The game is finished when all of the participating children have been captured and “eaten”. While the hunt for one child or another is going on, the other children often use this opportunity to change their hiding places, and often the one searching must again shout to the hidden: “Whistle, whistle, I listen!”

This game was very popular in the pre-contact period and could be played by a varying number of persons. Today one still sees the children play this game, but the game often starts with the children hiding themselves; that is, the first part of the game, the “rat-piling”, is omitted; it has thus come to resemble the simple Western form of “hide-and-seek” or “run-sheep-run”.

1.21.2 Adult variation. One of the adults places himself on the ground just as the children do. The other adults will, unlike the children, stand in a row behind each other, holding each other about the loins, and lay their heads against each other's backs. But they will not be on top of each other. When the line is formed, the following exchange of words will take place:

The one adult: How many are you, rats? E hia outou, kimoa?
The others: Three (meaning many)! E tongu!
The one adult: Leave one for me but get Tuku mai ma'aku tasi
  one only for you, kae hai ma'autou tasi,
  won't you! inee!
The others: Yes! 'Oo!
The one adult: And be defeated! Ma te mate!
The others: Yes! 'Oo!

After this they all run away, aside from the one adult who from the beginning lay on the ground. After a suitable time this one gets up and attempts to catch the others. They do not, however, hide as in the children's variation, and capture takes place by simply touching the one who is captured.

Before 1938, this game was played only in connection with major celebrations as, for example, at the large and long-lasting festivities which - 46 were connected with the tattooing of a specific tattoo called taukuka. This famous and spectacular tattoo covers the entire chest. Tattooing of this sort could stretch over several weeks. In such cases they would play “rat-piling” on the trail up to the settlement where the tattooing went on.

1.22 Making string figures (hai pake)

The Bellonese can make a considerable number of string figures. Many of them are three dimensional, some of them are based on getting the whole figure or parts of the figure to move, and songs are associated with a few of them. String figures are usually made out of an approximately 90 cm-long cord (pake, lit., “trick, deception”), made of fibres from pandanus leaves. Even though children can sit alone and make string figures it is, however, more common to see groups of children sit together and make them. In a few cases, one also sees adults making string figures together with the children. Once in a while there is a competition as to who can make a certain string figure most quickly (hai pake hetau).

To describe the making of the individual string figures would require a special publication along the line of Firth and Maude 16. In the present account we will be content with giving the names of some of them.

  • 1. The divorced marriage (te tatanga maabae)
  • 2. The whale/porpoise (te tahonga'a)
  • 3. The osprey's nest (te aliu mangibae)
  • 4. The main trail (te angatu'u)
  • 5. The boat (te hakataupapa)
  • 6. The lightning (te 'uinga)
  • 7. The canoe (te baka)
  • 8. Many taros (te ta'u tango)
  • 9. Many coconuts (te ta'u polo)
  • 10. A large seine or net (te bugho)
  • 11. A small landcrab (te ango)
  • 12. A turtle (te honu)
  • 13. A hut (te hange)
  • 14. A war party, raiders (te tau'a)
  • 15. A wooden food bowl (te kumete)
  • 16. An old hut (te hata)
  • 17. An arrow (te ngasau)
  • 18. A rat's nest (te aliu kimoa)
  • 19. The double canoe in which the first ancestor Kaitu'u sailed, when he discovered Rennell and Bellona (te ha'ungua)
  • 20. The sun (te nga'aa)
  • 21. An airplane, as invented by Taupongi (te bakangenge a Taupongi)
  • 22. A sky, as invented by Tehakangea (te hakataupapa a Tehakangea)
  • 23. Two persons having sexual intercourse (Ngu pengea hai sini)
  • 24. The anus of this island (te tobigha o te henua nei). This is also an expression for a deep hole in the coral cliff in the eastern district.
  • 25. A wild vine (te kautaba). In connection with this string figure there is a song.
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Making string figures happens in periods; sometimes nearly all the children will make them, at other times none of them. In addition to the string figures named here, there is a whole series related to the pre-Christian female god Sikingimoemoe (na pake a Sikingimoemoe). However, they are not ascribed any special religious or ritual meaning. Some string figures are still being invented and are named for the inventor, as 21 and 22 above.

1.23 Archery competition (hakatau hana)

Archery competition was in the old days reserved for young men (‘atu tahi). They compete to see who can shoot his arrow the farthest. As a rule, the shooting takes place on the trail leading to the settlement. This trail was sufficiently long and clear. There was always danger of meeting gods on the trail, but older children had stronger life principles (ma‘ungi) than younger ones and could survive encounters that might kill weaker, younger children. Thus younger children, who also had arrows, did not play much in this area, but in less dangerous ones such as the beach.

When one of the participants shoots his arrow there ensues a rapid exchange of words between the archer and the “marker” (mataa ngasau). The latter's task is to mark the arrow's landing place. The dialogue, most often in the form of shouting, is the following:

The archer: There is my arrow! Taku ngasau na!
The marker: Yes! ‘Oo!
The archer: There it goes! Tenoo!
The marker: Yes! ‘Oo!
The archer: Iooooo! Iooooo!
The marker: 'Oooooo! 'Oooooo!
The archer: Iiiiiii! Iiiiiii!
The marker: Here [it is], here, here! Teenei, teenei, teenei!

If the arrow has struck the earth, the marker marks the landing place with a twig or the like and another archer takes over the shooting. Each time an archer's arrow passes the most recently marked landing place, the marker is moved. The winner is the one who has shot the farthest.

Archery competition is no longer found on Bellona and I found little indication that young men today really know how a good bow-and-arrow set should be carved and constructed.

1.24 Bite the yam! (tanimalenge)

Although the Bellonese expression tani malenge literally translated means “to walk around”, it has been translated here freely as “bite the yam” because the game resembles in many ways the children's game known in the West as “bite the apple”. As in that game, the men form a ring around an approximately 80 centimetre-long stick which is stuck in the ground and on the top of which is fixed a piece of cooked yam (‘uhi), taro (tango) or panna (‘uhingaba). Hopping on one leg, and with his hands behind his back, one from the circle attempts to reach the stick and take a bite. All the while he hops to and around the stick, the other participants sing the following:

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1. My ghaasigho vine, the bangai tree 1. Taku ghaasigho, na bangai
Let's go to them Ma hinatu kinai
The kala nuts have been picked Kua toghi 'ia te kala nei
The picking of nuts hia e sii E'uingaa hia e sii
Lie down, I lie down, lie down. Takoto, kau takoto, takoto
2. I bit, ai i ee 2. Kau ngongogohu 17 ai i ee
I walk back and forth oo i ee Kau tanimalenge oo i ee
? a beetle Ngoni ngoengoe
Si-lie down, I lie down, lie down Sitakoto, kau takoto, takoto
Siii, siii, siii, siii. Siii, siii, siii, siii.

If he succeeds in taking a bite of the yam from the stick without falling down, the bystanders clap and yell and shout Auee, aueeeeee! The piece of yam is replaced on the stick and another one from the circle tests his skill. If he is less lucky and either loses his balance in such a way that he must support himself by the other leg or moves the piece of yam so that it falls down, he goes back in the circle. No real winner or loser, as such, exists.

This game is distinctly a man's game; women are said to be ashamed (papa'a) to take part actively, even though they very much like to see the men do it. Moreover, their tight-fitting loincloths would make the hopping difficult.

When the Bellonese held celebrations in pre-Christian times this was a very popular game among the male guests.

Bite the yam! (tanimalenge!); game 1.24. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua, Bellona Island.
1.25 Winding the loincloth on (ha'uha'u kongoa)

The content of this ancient game is a sort of imitation of how a loincloth is wrapped around a person and how it is unfolded. Adults as well as children of both sexes participate. At the beginning of the game the participants hold each other by their hands and form a long, straight line. The - 49 whole line now begins to move and after a few metres the leader, that is, the foremost in the line, remains standing and the other participants move around about him in a spiral march until at last all of the participants stand in a spiral. Everyone still holds each other by the hand. During this entire walk the whole group constantly sings “Winding on the loincloth” (ha'uha'u te kongoa). After this, the march back begins; that is, the participants walk backwards until “the loincloth is unfolded” and everyone again stands in a straight line. During this entire backwards walk, no one lets go of anyone else and they now sing constantly and repeatedly “unfolding the loincloth” (buughea, buughea, te kongoa). When all of the participants again stand in a long row, the game is finished, but they will usually continue with tongoni te tango, which is described next.

Tongoni te tango. The participants, who still hold each other by the hands, now lift these to elbow height. The leader (te 'ungu tungi) and the other participants begin to wind in and out under each other's arms, starting with those who stand nearest the leader and finishing at the other end. When all of the participants have gone through this procedure, the game is finished. During this entire walk, the leader and the rest of the participants alternately sing the following:

The leader: Tongoni te tango
Chorus: Iau, iau, iee
The leader: Totongi te tango
Chorus: lau, iau, iee

The words in this song are incomprehensible even to the Bellonese.

Tongoni te tango is normally followed by a game called hetau'aki o ngigho, which literally translated means “holding hands and forming a circle”. That is exactly what the participants do. At the same time, one of them volunteers to go inside the circle (te pengea i 'ango) and one person positions himself outside the circle (te pengea i tu'a). The idea is that the person outside the circle must catch the person who is inside the circle. This he can do by quickly breaking through the circle of players, running into the circle and touching the circle again. The participants who form the ring are on the hunted person's side. They attempt to block the way of the other by dropping their hands to the ground. But with speed and cunning he manages to slip inside once in a while. During this whole hunt back and forth, those who form the circle stand still and together with the one who is outside the circle they sing:

Person outside: Many surgeonfish Tau manini
Chorus: Many squirrelfish Tau mangau
Person outside: If [I] find you Ko koe kite ai,
  I will spear [you]! bengo e au!
Chorus: Get ready to be speared! Haka'ango ke bengo!
Person outside: Many surgeonfish Tau manini
Chorus: Many squirrelfish Tau mangau
Person outside: If [I] find you Ko koe kite ai,
  I will set fire to [you]! tutu e au!
Chorus: Get ready to be set fire to! Haka'ango ke tutu!
Person outside: Many surgeonfish Tau manini
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Chorus: Many squirrelfish Tau mangau
Person outside: If [I] find you, Ko koe kite ai,
  I will pierce [you]! suki e au!
Chorus: Get ready to be pierced! Haka'ango ke suki!
Person outside: Many surgeonfish Tau manini
Chorus: Many squirrelfish Tau mangau
Person outside: If [I] find you, Ko koe kite ai,
  I will shoot [you]! hana e au!
Chorus: Get ready to be shot! Haka'ango ke hana!
Person outside: If [I] find you, Ko koe kite ai,
  I will kill [you]! taa e au!
Chorus: Get ready to be killed! Haka'ango ke taa

The order of the verses is random and is decided by the person who is outside the circle. If he wishes, he can himself invent other words and incorporate them. If it is very difficult to catch the person inside the circle, some of the verses sung earlier can be sung again. When the person is caught, the two persons are replaced by other volunteers from the circle and the game is repeated until the players are exhausted.

1.26 Neck-twisting (beelunu)

Beelunu was originally not a game but a painful fighting technique of hair-pulling (beelunu). After exchanging insults, the infuriated fighters grabbed each other's great mass of hair and tried to get the opponent's head down to the ground in such a way that he could better inflict a hard blow with the fist.

In a less violent way, this old combat form is converted into a game for women. Two women sit opposite each other and put their arms around each other's necks, after which each one tightens her grip and attempts to force the opponent's head and upper body to the earth. The one for whom this succeeds has won. The same can either be repeated with the same opponent or one can choose another. The surrounding spectators try to get the combatants to do their best by cheering them on with shouts such as “hee, hee, hee, heee!”

This form of entertainment does not seem to have been especially widespread in the old days. Perhaps this was because the distance between play and earnestness in this form of activity was not especially great. Today the game is no longer found.

1.27 Resurrection (te tingo mate)

By blowing in the dead person's ear one of the former gods is said to have resuscitated his worshippers. This is the theme behind the game, which is designated te tingo mate. At the beginning of the game, one of the persons kneels on the ground with his legs drawn up under his body and in such a way that his head rests on both of his folded arms. This person is supposed to be recently deceased. Another person squats near his head and represents one of the pre-Christian gods who was worshipped. Over his head, the “god” holds an old, dirty mat (malibebe) or anything else symbolising that he is invisible. The “god” rises and walks around the deceased in a stooping position and sings:

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The bones [of the dead person] Aaboi, aabo sua, 'oee!
lie neatly, 'oee!  
The bones [of the dead person] Aaboi, aabo sua, 'oee!
lie neatly, 'oee!  
The bones, 'oee! The real bones! Sua, 'oee! Sua mongimongi!

The words to this song are almost unintelligible, even to the Bellonese, and the translation given here must be taken with reservations. It was suggested by Taupongi from Matahenua.

Just before the conclusion of the song, the “god” seats himself before the feet of the “deceased” and when the last line has been sung he takes hold of one of the deceased's legs and pulls it so that it lies outstretched. Thereafter, the song is repeated while at the same time he walks around the “dead” man. The second time the song is finished, he tugs the other leg out so that the “dead” man now lies on his stomach, legs outstretched and head resting on his arms. The song is now sung a third time and the “god” seats himself by the “dead” man's head where at the conclusion of the verse he stretches one of the arms out. The same is repeated with the other arm when the verse is sung for the fourth time. The fifth time the verse is sung, the “god” places himself by the head again and now breathes into the “dead” man's ear. This symbolises that he breathes life into him. Hereafter, the “god” quickly runs away from the resurrected one who at this point moves up into a sitting position and looks about in a confused manner, surprised to be back to life without knowing how. At this point the game is finished.

Theoretically, the “god” need not run away but could seat himself anywhere at all, as he is taken to be invisible and thus no one knows where he is to be found. As in the pre-Christian religion where the presence of the gods could only be ascertained through that which was heard, one can know that he is present only by hearing his voice in the song. The participants in this game could only be men, partly because the gods were principally male and partly because the gods would not breathe life into women.

1.28 To forsake fear (tuku mataku)

The Bellonese term tuku mataku literally translated means “to forsake fear” and is the designation for a form of competitive game performed almost exclusively by older, adult men. The object was to go as far as possible along the main trail on a pitch-dark night. This was considered a test of courage.

Today it does not seem difficult or dangerous to go along the main trail either by day or night. But in pre-Christian days, one had to be aware not only of potential enemies, who might be lying in ambush at any place and any time, but also of the danger emanating from the entire supernatural world and its people and creatures. According to the old traditions of the Bellonese, the main trail was the place where the worshipped, as well as the unworshipped, gods, ancestors and other supernatural beings travelled at night. A meeting with these could have unpleasant consequences. To pass a taboo area was especially dangerous at night; many such areas lay close to the main trail. It is not difficult to imagine that it took much - 52 courage to travel alone along the main trail on a dark night; where, for example, bats with their outstretched wings glided silently by, where lizards suddenly ran frightened out of their cover and where one's foot might inadvertently get caught in vines or roots. One therefore understands the Bellonese when they say that this game was for really mature and fearless men (pengea toka manaba). Occasionally, however, children would play this game too so as “to learn not to be afraid to walk along the trail alone when grown-up”, as one of the elder men said.

The object of the game was to walk in a given direction out along the main trail as far as one dared. Where one was overcome by fear, one would put a stick in the ground, after which one would hurry back to the settlement. Here one would tell about the experiences and where the stick had been placed. Then another man would then go out along the trail in the same direction. If this man reached the place where the stick was stuck in the ground and dared to go further along the trail, he took the stick up out of the earth, took it with him and planted it as much further on as he dared to go, after which he also hurried back. Then a third man started out and thus they continued through the night. If one of them became afraid and gave up before he reached the stick, he simply turned around and hurried back.

This game is not to be found on the island today, nor are the conditions for playing it present, partly because the Bellonese have given up the old religion, partly because the probability of anyone lying in wait with weapons is rather small, and finally because there are far more people than before who travel on the main trail both in the day and at night.

1.29 Tika

Tika is known over large areas of Polynesia 18 as a spear-throwing or dart-throwing sport. On Bellona, in contrast to other Polynesian islands, the bow-and-arrow was used. Today, almost nothing can be remembered of the tika game and the only signs remaining on the island are the three “courses” which were used for the game several generations ago. These three courses are found in the island's three districts, the first in Tangiu in the western district, the second in Namo in the central district, and the third, Telaunga, in the island's eastern district. Informants claim that it is at least 12 generations since tika has been played on the island. The only information that we possess today comes from Monberg, who writes, after mentioning the three Bellona sides:

Unlike other tika games of Polynesia, the one on Bellona was said to be part of a certain ritual and was played with bows and arrows. After an invocation to Tehainga'atua, one man shot an arrow along the path, and another man raced the arrow, which would stop in the middle of the air and wait for the man if the prayer had been successful. If not, the arrow would fall to the ground. 19

What is noteworthy in Monberg's account is, among other things, that tika was regarded as “part of a certain ritual.” This is to the best of our - 53 information the only time that a connection between ritual behaviour and game/sports on Bellona has been pointed out.

2.0 Games introduced after World War II
2.1 Leku

Leku is a song game for small children. Generally, the children sit on the ground and stretch their arms out in front and lock little fingers and thumbs to their neighbours forming a circle. The circle of hands is then rhythmically moved up and down while at the same time the children sing the following as loudly as possible:

Leku, leku, Solomoni.
Solomoni luma
luma pupuloko
loko piupiu paopao
bebelasi kalaka huuhuu hai.

The stanza is repeated until the children become tired of the game. The meaning of these words is completely incomprehensible. It may be a variant of a Melanesian language spoken on one of the other islands in the Solomon Island group. The song game is of rather recent date on Bellona.

2.2 Coconut-shell play (te babange haangongo)

The basic idea in this game is to build up a pile of coconut shell halves and at the same time try to avoid getting hit by the opponents' ball. The children divide themselves into two groups of equal size. One is called the “army” (na tu'unganga). This group has a king, te kingi. Each player in this group is equipped with one or two bats. Either a branch or a board or an empty petroleum-tin can be used as a bat. The other group, which is called the “workers” (na hai hekau), has neither king nor bats, but, on the other hand, is provided with a ball or lemon.

At the beginning of the game, an unspecified number of empty coconut shell halves is stacked in the centre of the playground: as a rule, there are between 6 and 15 shells. The “workers” kick the pile or shove the coconut shell away with their feet or sometimes also with their hands, so that they come to lie scattered in a circumference of about four to five metres from the original pile. While this is going on, the “army” runs a good distance away. As soon as the coconut shells are spread out, the “workers” throw the ball from man to man until one of them thinks he has placed himself in a good position to hit one of the members of the “army”, whereupon he throws the ball at this one and tries to hit him. This one may repel the throw with his bat, duck, or try to run away. If possible, he tries to bat the ball far away, preferably as far as possible from the coconut shell halves. While one of the “workers” runs after the ball which has been batted, the “army” hurries in order to begin stacking the coconut shell into a neat pile. It is forbidden for the “workers” to throw the ball at the pile or in any other way to destroy the construction work.

If one of the “army” is struck by the ball at any point on the body, he is “dead” and is out of the game. He puts his bat on the ground as a sign that he is finished. Then one of his fellow players hurries to the spot to seize his - 54 bat, either to have two bats, which is allowed, or to exchange his own bat for a better one. During the entire game, the players will try especially to hit the king since if he succeeds, the game is lost, regardless of how many “soldiers” are still living. Nevertheless “soldiers” do not sacrifice themselves to save the “king”. On the other hand, if the “army” succeeds in stacking all the coconut shells one on top of another without their king being hit, they have won the game. They start over without changing roles.

Anyone can be chosen as the king. Usually someone spontaneously says “I am king” (Ko au te kingi). It may well be that smaller children would like to be “kings”, and these are chosen even though the team as a whole is then weakened because a small child will be easier to hit than a larger one who can move more quickly and bat the ball away more skilfully.

The game is often repeated countless times and is popular with younger as well as older children and also with some adults.

2.3 Relay-race (to'o plaki)

The term to'o plaki is a combination of a Bellonese word, to'o “to bring” and a pidgin-English word, plaki (English: “plank”) that refers to the baton, the stick that is used with the relay-race. The relay-race was first introduced to the island a few years ago, and the game is played mainly by smaller children between 6 and 10 years of age. There seem to be no definite rules, either in regard to the distance of the run, the number of runners, or how the baton is to be passed. In general, the children divide themselves into two teams and stand one behind the other at opposite end of the course they each run on. At a given signal, one child from each team runs towards the other's team, swings around it, and runs back to his own group, where the stick is passed to the child who is first in line. This child starts to run the same route as soon as he has received the baton in his hand. If the baton is dropped, it must be picked up. This is continued until all the children have run and are back in their own team. The team whose members first have run the entire distance win.

2.4 Sikongu

Sikongu, a kind of jacks, is played with small sea shells or stones. Two or more children sit next to or opposite each other, throw the collected shells up in the air, and attempt to catch them with either the palm or back of the hand. One child starts by throwing one of the 40 to 80 shells the children have lying between them up in the air, and attempts to catch this in the palm of his right hand. If this succeeds, the toss is repeated with the same shell and now the idea is to catch it with the back of the right hand. If this is successful, the shell is laid by the side of the child. Next, two new shells are taken from the centre pile. These are thrown up in the air simultaneously while the child first attempts to catch them in the palm of his hand and then with the back of his hand. The play continues in this manner, increasing the numbers of shells each time until the child fails to catch one or several of the shells. Thereafter, another child takes over and starting with one shell continues until he drops one of the shells. If all the children have been through the line, the first child starts over with one - 55 shell, two shells, three shells, etc. This is continued until all the collected shells in the middle pile are used up. The child who has collected the most shells by his side wins.

According to Sam Elbert, 20 this game was introduced from the Western Solomon Islands.

2.5 Flip the stick (te me'a sue)

This game has received a Bellonese name even though its origin is not Bellonese. It is claimed that the game originally came from the Gilbert Islands.

To play “flip the stick”, there must be two groups, preferably of equal numbers. One group is called na workers and the other is designated by the Bellonese word for a group in general, te potu. One group is the one which is “out”: that is to say, it attempts to stop the other group, which is “in”, in the execution of a given task of physical skill. For the sake of simplicity, let us assume that na workers are “out” and te potu are “in”.

Two sticks of different length are required for the game. The short one is about 10 to 12 cm long (approximately 4 to 5 inches) and the long is about 75 to 100 cm (approximately 30 to 39 inches). A small hole is dug in the ground, about 6 to 8 cm (approximately 2½ to 3 inches) in diameter and with the same depth. One of the children from te potu lays the small stick across the hole. The long stick, which he holds securely, is then placed in the hole in such a way that one end can act as a lever under the shorter cross-stick. At this point, by whipping the long stick upwards, the child attempts to throw the cross-stick as far away from himself as possible. Children belonging to na workers attempt to catch the cross-stick before it falls to the ground. If this succeeds, the thrower from the potu group is “dead” and is out of the game. His role is taken over by another from his group. If snatching the cross-stick is unsuccessful, one of na workers positions himself at the place where the cross-stick has fallen. He picks it up and throws it at the long stick, which the thrower, in the meantime, has laid across the hole in a horizontal position to the worker. If the cross-stick strikes the long stick, the thrower from the potu group is “dead” and is out. If the cross-stick does not strike, the same child from the potu group continues the game by putting the cross-stick obliquely down in the hole. He hits the upper end of the cross-stick with the long stick in such a way that he makes it fly up in the air, the idea being to hold it up as long as possible by hitting it successively upwards with the long stick. The number of blows the child can give the cross-stick before it strikes the ground is counted.

After this, the same child starts over by placing the cross-stick over the hole and throwing it out as before. This is continued until he is “dead”. Subsequently, a new member of his group begins and continues in this manner until everyone in this group is “dead”. The roles are then changed so that na workers are “in”, and the te potu people go out in the field. The roles are changed until the game is finished.

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Before the game begins, they draw the following figure on the ground:

Counting device in the game Flip the stick (te me'a sue); game 2.5.

The drawing constitutes a kind of scoreboard for each group. Each group has one of the sides; for example, na workers have ABC and te potu have ADE. Each hit is counted on the line BC or DE respectively. If the cross-stick is, for example, hit six times by the big one, a small stick is placed on number 6. If the same or succeeding child from the same group hits the cross-stick three times in the next round, the stick is moved from 6 to 9; when they reach 12, they count backwards successively from 12 to 1. When they get back to 1, the short stick is placed at a distance from AB. Counting is continued until the entire game is over. The group that has the most hits in all—that is to say, the one that has gotten the most stick in group AB or AD respectively—has won. If this number is equal, the result is determined by looking at who has gone farthest along the row BC or CD.

This game is usually played by children between the ages of 6 and 10; very seldom are adults seen taking part in it.

2.6 Heads or tails (te crown)

Heads or tails is also a recently introduced game. As an implement, an Australian coin whose sides respectively are called te heti (English “head”) and te tele (English “tail”), is used. A matchbox may also be used; its picture side is called “crown”, and the solid-coloured dark side, “black”.

At the start of the game, each of the two participants has a uniform number of wood sticks or matches as stakes. He who tosses the coin decides the stakes, which can be from one to many. The stakes in the game, which are the same from each of the two players, are laid between the two players, and the coin or matchbox is tossed into the air. The player who has predicted the correct result, wins the entire pool; after this, the two change roles.

2.7 Bellonese blind-man's buff (tukituki haangongo; lit., “striking coconut shells”)

A group of children, preferably eight to ten, form a ring by holding each other's hands. Inside the circle are two children, each with a blindfold - 57 over his eyes. One of them has a half coconut shell in each hand. He makes a noise by striking the two shell halves against each other and the blind-folded one must catch him by following the sound. The one who hits the coconut shells uses all possible tricks to mislead the other. He can, for example, stretch his arms out in one direction, hit the coconut shells together and hasten to run in the opposite direction. He can also hit the coconut shells together and duck. Those standing around make sure that neither of the two can come out of the circle. If the noise-maker is caught, the game is finished and the two children are replaced by two others from the circle. During the game those who form the circle will often cheer loudly for the one who attempts to capture and when the game is at its height the air is full of laughter. Nowadays, grown-up women are occasionally seen among the participants in the game.

Bellonese blind-man's buff (tukituki haangongo); game 2.7. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua, Bellona Island.
2.8 Oranges and Lemons

Two persons stand opposite each other at a distance of about half a metre. They hold each other's hands tightly, and stretch them up over their heads so that their two bodies and the upwards-stretched arms form an arch. By mutual secret agreement, which is unknown to the rest of the participants, one calls himself “orange” and the other “lemoni”. The other participants, who can be of any number, stand behind each other in a long line and hold each other around the loins. The entire line of participants goes through the arch singing the following incomprehensible and probably meaningless words:

Olene, lemoni, sing o placing
tomorrow, today, sing so
'ai, sapu lai
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white little belling go home

When the last words in this stanza have been sung, the two persons who form the arch throw their hands around the waist of the person who is at that precise moment under the arch. He who has been caught is now secretly asked whether he wants to be with the orange or the lemon. (“Ko koe te pengea o te orange po te lemoni?”). If, for example, he chooses the orange, he says: “I prefer the orange” (Ko au siahai te orange). It is then revealed to him which of the two persons is the orange, and he places himself behind this one and holds him about the loins. After this, everything is repeated. The row of remaining participants again walks under the bow singing and when the last word is reached, the arms are thrown around another one, and the new captive is also asked whether he wants to be with the orange or with the lemon. If he chooses the lemon, he goes behind the “lemon” person. And so they continue until everyone from the line is caught.

The object, of course, is to be the last caught. Thus some participants attempt to increase or reduce the speed with which they move through the arch, depending on what they consider the most appropriate to avoid being caught.

When everyone at last has been caught and placed in back of one of the two persons, a type of tug-of-war is performed without rope between the

Oranges and Lemons; game 2.8. Drawing made by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua, Bellona Island.
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two sides (tokangua pa'asi). The “orange” and the “lemon” players hold tightly to each other's hands and everyone heaves to try to get the members to fall, with the not so uncommon result that they themselves fall backwards.

2.9 Springball

Springball is a game introduced to Bellona as late as 1971. Springball is played with four boxes, which are drawn in the sand with a stick (Fig. 13).

Playing field as drawn on the ground for the springball game; game 2.9.

The one standing in box one is called the kingi, because he starts the throwing each time. The rules are as follows: The ball that is thrown by the kingi can be thrown from box to box in random order. The ball can, however, only be passed on with both hands simultaneously, and it can only strike the ground a single time in each box before it must be sent further. If the ball strikes the ground more than once in the same box, the person who is standing in the box is “dead” and out of the game. This is also the case when the ball hits one of the lines of the boxes or hits the ground outside the boxes. In both cases, the person who throws the ball is “dead” and out. The ball may also be passed further before it has hit the ground, if this is done with two hands. The person who is “dead” is replaced by another player who stands outside box number four, where the other participants have formed a line, waiting for it to be their turn. The new player begins each time in number four, which is achieved by the remaining players always moving up to the box which has become empty when the person who is declared “dead” has gone out of the game.

In 1972, the game was rather popular in the village of Matahenua, among adult women as well as among children.

2.10 Soccer ('angu polo), rugby ('angungaa polo ngima or laghabii [Eng.]), and basketball

In the last couple of years, the Bellonese have begun to play a group of contemporary European ball games such as soccer, rugby and basketball. Each village has a playing field (pileipili, from English: “play-field”). The most important soccer and rugby fields are in the village of Patua, in the central district. Here the soccer field is 87 by 53 metres (79 by 49 yards) and lies between the main trail and the village huts. The goals are 6.50 metre (5.9 yards) wide. Once a week, young men gather to train under the guidance of a young Bellonese who has played for a soccer team in Honiara, on Guadalcanal. The training consists of gymnastic exercises - 60 running, goal shooting, and ordinary training matches. The soccer field is at this time always surrounded by many spectators, among them many of the island's young girls.

Rugby is played on the same field, but less often because, among other things, it is difficult to procure balls for this game.

Basketball is mainly for women. It is played by teenagers as well as by slightly older women. Sometimes a few men also participate. Each of the villages has a basketball court. They vary in size from 15 by 22 metres (13½ by 20 yards) in the village of Pauta to 15.5 by 34 metres (14 by 30 yards) in the village in Matahenua. Basketball is probably the most common ball game at the present time among the women. The court in Matahenua, which was three metres outside my hut, was used immediately after the morning church service, and late in the afternoon, just before the evening service. In these games, fun and entertainment seem to be primary; the observance of the rules and one team's superiority over the other are apparently unimportant. The selection of teams takes place according to chance.

Things went completely differently when a woman representative from Women's Welfare, a social organisation from the main island of Guadalcanal, came to the island to teach the Bellonese women the correct rules. Observance of the rules of the game suddenly became central.

According to Elbert 21 the Bellonese in 1958 played cricket (kilikiti). In 1971 and 1972, cricket-playing or even attempts at it were not observed.

2.11 Other games

In the fall of 1970, Francis Taupongi brought two pairs of boxing gloves to the island. They aroused great interest, and young men were eager to try them. A square was drawn on the ground, and two young men wearing boxing gloves and loin-cloths would start sparring with each other. This never had any great success, however, perhaps because the Bellonese men found out that the game could only be played during the few months that boxing gloves were available on the island.

Card games (kati), so far unidentified, appear to be gaining a foothold on the island. Bellonese youths, who have been in Honiara and learned it there, sometimes bring cards back with them and quickly teach rules to the others. During the time I was on the island, however, I saw card-playing only once. It appeared clear from conversations with the men that it definitely was not to their taste. One of them said that it was enough that the women spent their time playing ball, without their spending the rest of their time sitting around playing cards.

Differences between the Ancient Bellonese Games and the Newly Introduced

Playing areas. A characteristic feature of the old Bellonese games is that most took place outdoors. The few suited for playing inside the huts were mainly games for small children such as “tickling” (1.3), “holding one's - 61 breath” (1.4), “Sikingimoemoe's counting game” (1.7) and making string figures (1.22). Most games were played outdoors because not only were the huts rather small, low and dark, but at several places inside the huts it was taboo to play. As pointed out earlier, there were no large areas in the old settlements where children could play if they wanted to avoid breaking the various taboos that existed there. However, genuine Bellonese games did not, as a rule, demand much room, and in contrast with the modern games, were more controllable in their spatial dimensions. For instance, the materials which were used in the old games did not themselves exercise control over the placement of the children (as, for example, a ball does). Thus the children did not unintentionally encroach upon taboo areas. The few games which had this possibility, like archery competition, were played by older children.

The few games which in ancient Bellona demanded more room and in which a larger number of persons participated, belonged chiefly to adults, and these games were most often carried out on the trail leading up to the settlement. Modern games demand much more space than the old ones, but the present-day residential form in villages, where the houses are placed around or in a long line behind the church, makes it possible for these to be carried on. Other changes are related to night-day activity. In the old days, there was almost no traffic on the main trail at night, nor would anyone dream of making unnecessary noise after nightfall, since it might draw the attention of the gods. At the same time, people were afraid of not hearing possible enemies who might be sneaking up to the settlement. Therefore, they often sat in comparative quiet in the village, huddled together around some of the older men and women who could tell stories—often stories that could call forth associations and fantasies among the children about great exploits in days of old. The nocturnal activity which takes place now, with children continuing to play long into the night, creates problems in the villages, where some of the older Bellonese are of the opinion that the Christian God, as in the case with the departed gods, does not want lots of activity and happy times in the evenings. This is, in any case, the formal explanation that they give to the young to get them to play, for example, on the beach instead of in the village. This is, and will certainly be in the future, the place where the main non-religious activities take place—except for soccer, rugby, and basket-ball which require a proper playing field.

Playing material. It is remarkable what simple materials the children used in their games in old times. Rolled-up fern leaves were used as a kind of doll, because these had “round tops which look like babies' heads.” 22 Berries of Ficus trees like ghaapoli and maganko were used as tops (hosa) and parts of a Fungus (ta'e o hiti) acted as children's toy axes. Leaves were used for play-sleeping mats; Ficus and pandanus leaves were used as sails on miniature sailboats; folded together the leaves could be used for windmills. 23 Vines and aerial roots were used as jumping ropes or as ropes for string figures. Stems of young papaya were used for blowguns - 62 and rolled-up-grass as “ammunition”. Papaya stems were also used as flutes. (The Bellonese had purportedly learned this from the captain of a foreign ship which called at the island at the end of the last century.) Sticks and reeds constituted fighting-sticks in imitation of adult battles. There are many further examples of playing materials which the Bellonese children found in their immediate surroundings. Most of the above-mentioned play materials were rapidly perishable and either withered away or broke quickly. Certain materials—such as sailboats or bows and arrows—were, however, longer-lasting. Usually the Bellonese children used what they had at hand or quickly constructed for themselves what they needed. This was an integral part of the play.

The games that have been introduced by outsiders are much more dependent on the play materials themselves. For instance, children can only play “heads or tails” (2.6) if they are in possession of a matchbox or a coin, just as springball (2.9), rugby, soccer, basketball (2.10) require balls for playing. These are not easy to replace, because people have very little money on the island and there are no stores nearer than the island of Guadalcanal, 100 miles distant.

Social and Age Limits on Participation in Games

Most of the old Bellonese games were not limited to specific sexes or social classes, as for example in Hawaii. 24 When children developed secondary sexual characteristics and started to wear loincloths, they began to indulge in different games. Young girls could no longer participate in activities such as “horse-back-riding” (1.18), “walking on hands” (1.20), or “bite the yam” (1.24) and the young men could no longer take part in making earth ovens (taboo for men according to the old Bellonese religion). Among the ranks of the adults' games, there were two games, namely “resurrection” (1.28) and “tika” (1.29), in which the women could not participate because of these games' religious associations. If young men or women were seen participating in small children's games after they themselves had started to wear loincloths, other adults would indignantly ask them if they were children (“Ko koe te tamangiki?”). This distinction between play and non-play periods in a person's life is changed today and many young people of both sexes as well as large numbers of adult women and some men play and romp. However, not all adults do so. Some are more eager to play than others, and one would still look with a certain degree of scepticism at a “chief” (hakahua) who began to play games.

Some adult men think that participation in games by teenagers and women is out of control. Some even go so far as to say that the relative scarcity of food on the island in recent years is caused in part by an increased emphasis on play and related activities. For this reason, it is argued, women no longer attend sufficiently to their work in the garden, and the young men have become less interested in fishing or in cultivating small plots of land. This attitude may only, however, reflect the perpetual schism between older and younger generations, rather than point to the - 63 real cause of food-scarcity: re-doubling of the population within one generation, and less use being made of far-off gardens as a result of the new settlement pattern.

Structure. If one compares the ancient Bellonese games with those newly introduced, certain striking differences appear in their structure. The ancient games had far fewer formal rules than the newly introduced ones, called for a significantly lesser degree of competition, and demanded a smaller number of participants. The change in formal rules is apparent in, for instance, the women's reaction to the rules laid down in basketball. The Bellonese women seem to be mildly surprised that before the beginning of a game they must select teams, or form a line, or run on to the playground where they then stand opposite each other and greet each other—as if they did not know each other beforehand. If an important rule is violated, the game is temporarily interrupted instead of going on.

The Western idea behind basketball and many other ball games, to win against one's opponents, still appears odd to the Bellonese. The endeavour to win hardly existed in the old games. To be sure, there were two sides in some of the games, like “tug-of-war” (1.17), or “horseback-riding” (1.18), in which one team defeated the other, but it appears that winning in itself has never played a really significant role for the Bellonese. Another difference is that, unlike the situation in many other societies, there were no counting-out rhymes that would tend to keep the groups of players of reasonably equal strength and numbers.

A striking difference between the two groups of games is in the number of participants. Whereas the original games to an overwhelming degree could be played by small numbers of children, the new games often demand the participation of many persons.

Some Possible Determinants for Changes in Bellonese Games

When strolling around the island and watching children's activities one may be surprised to see how rarely the traditional games are played. The few games from before 1938 which still seem to have some popularity are “pushing over” (1.8), “tree-climbing” (1.10), “tug-of-war” (1.17), “rat-piling” (1.21), and “winding-the-loincloth-on” (1.25); but they are played infrequently compared with the introduced games.

From the collected material on Bellona island, it is not possible either to support or reject the theory put forward by Sutton-Smith as to why some games survive contact with European culture while others succumb. Nevertheless, it is possible to point out a few circumstances which almost certainly have played a role in the gradual submergence of this part of Bellonese culture. There seem to be at least the following two determinants.

  • 1. The radical change in the population and the residential form after contact with the outer world;
  • 2. The recent Bellonese experience of having other people (Melanesian and missionaries) consider their culture inferior, and the gradual acceptance of this “judgement”.

1. As has been pointed out earlier, the Bellonese population not only has doubled during the past 35 years but in a radical way has also changed its pattern of residence. Small isolated settlements have been replaced with - 64 village residence. This population increase together with the new residential form has resulted in a great concentration of people and especially of children. When many children are assembled at one place, and often many within the same age group, types of games are needed in which many children can participate at the same time. Since a great number of the genuine Bellonese games could be played only by a very limited number of children at the same time, these no longer satisfy the new conditions. Such games have already disappeared from the culture.

The games still in use appear to be those in which quite a large number of persons can participate. Examples are games which in the old days were played at “celebrations” like harvest-rituals and during the making of large body-tattooings. These games partly satisfy the new demands and thus are still enjoyed, though there is little doubt that one day they too will disappear (see below). The introduced games, and especially the ball games, demand the participation of quite large numbers of individuals and are thus well suited to the new conditions.

2. If contact between two different social systems creates a feeling in one of the groups that they have lived in sinful ignorance for centuries, a feeling of psychological inferiority may result. The “inferior” culture may then attempt to divorce itself from anything to do with the past. Among the Bellonese, the missionaries have succeeded in creating such a view, so that a cultural vacuum has arisen. As a result, games from other cultures, and especially games played by children in the society which has forced its value upon the Bellonese, have become greatly valued and are associated with progress, foresight, Christianity and prosperity.

Sport as a Political Instrument

For many of the young Bellonese men, rugby and soccer have become an important part of life, not only as entertainment but also as a means of breaking out of past geographical and social isolation. Young people dream of playing against other teams from the Solomon Islands, and a yet more distant dream is to become so good at these two games that one day a Bellonese will be placed on the national team representing the Solomon Islands at the South Pacific Games. During the last few weeks of my stay on the island, people had begun to do “stretch and bend” gymnastics in connection with a weekly day of training (Fig. 14). The technical possibilities of achieving this goal exist, since the Bellonese men are fairly good players. In practice, strong self-discipline and a united group effort are needed. At the moment, however, personal conflicts between certain would-be team members and the present players are so great that one party could only be on the field if the other were absent. Potentially good players who are not on the team are those who have ongoing conflicts concerning land tenure with players already on the team. As in the old days, such people avoid each other. If they meet on the trail, one of them turns off the trail into the bush. The unsettled disagreement is kept in a stage of unstable balance, ready to burst into open fights at the slightest provocation. To be opponents in a rugby or soccer game with the possibility of running into each other or knocking each other by pure accident is too dangerous to be worth risking.

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Who is to be represented on the field is more than a personal matter; it is a question of prestige for the lineage, the village, and, in the worst event, for the whole district. The modern sport games thus have become political instruments serving as a kind of psychological warfare. Where disagreements in old days were solved either by magic or open fights, participation in rugby or soccer now seems to act as a substitute. This hypothesis has, of course, to be tested in more detail by a thorough analysis of who forms the teams and who of the possible participants do not participate. But it is noticeable that in the females' basketball games these tensions do not seem to exist to the same degree as in the men's games. One can wonder whether this has to do with the old tradition that serious conflicts such as those arising from land disputes never occupied women.


In a culture such as the Bellonese, where the old religion occupied a central place in the social setting, an event as dramatic and sudden as the abrupt conversion to Christianity has affected nearly every part of the inhabitants' lives. As this paper has shown, it even affected the children's games. When changes took place in earnest, those who represented the new age, the new religion, and the new culture stood ready to introduce new games which fitted the new demands, especially the teachers at the missionary schools. Natives from some of the other islands in the Solomon Islands who had studied at the missionary schools in Onepusu or Batuna also possessed this knowledge and were very eager to pass on what they had learned in their schools. It was first and foremost the “white man's” games which should be played. Games from the other Solomon Island groups were of secondary importance but even these were considered somehow “better” than the genuine Bellonese games.

As the new games were introduced rather abruptly at a time when the ecological as well as psychological conditions appear to have been optimal, it was not possible for the genuine Bellonese games to develop gradually and adapt themselves to the new cultural conditions. And those among the present younger generation who have gone to missionary schools for some years have lost any interest in the old culture, which is why they are no longer interested in passing on their knowledge of games from their childhood to their younger brothers and sisters. On the contrary, they bring home further new games and teach these to the smaller children. The result is a serious break in the continuity of the cultural tradition. A many centuries-old pattern of games and children's activities is thereby about to be brought to an end.

  • AVEDON, E. M., and B. SUTTON-SMITH, 1971. The Study of Games. New York, Wiley.
  • BIRKET-SMITH, K., 1956. An Ethnological Sketch of Rennell Island, A Polynesian Outlier in Melanesia. Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab Historisk-filologiske Meddelelser, bind 35, No. 3.
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  • CULIN, S., 1899. “Hawaiian Games.” American Anthropologist, (New York Series), 1:201-47.
  • DAVIDSON, D. S., 1937. “The Pacific and Circum-Pacific Appearances of the Dart-game.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 46:1-23.
  • ELBERT, S. H., 1975. Dictionary of the Language of Rennell and Bellona. Copenhagen, The National Museum of Denmark.
  • ELBERT, S. H. and T. MONBERG, 1965. From the Two Canoes: Oral Traditions of Rennell and Bellona Islands. Honolulu and Copenhagen, The National Museum of Denmark in Cooperation with the University of Hawaii Press.
  • FEHER, J., 1969. Hawaii: A Pictorial History. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication No. 58. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press.
  • FIRTH, R., 1930. “A Dart Match in Tikopia.” Oceania, 1:64-96.
  • FIRTH, R. and H. MAUDE, 1970. “Tikopia String Figures.” Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Occasional Paper, No. 29.
  • KIRTLEY, B. F. and S. H. ELBERT, 1973. “Animal Tales from Rennell and Bellona.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 3:241-65.
  • KUSCHEL, R., 1975. Animal Stories From Bellona. Copenhagen, The National Museum of Denmark.
  • MONBERG, T., 1967. “An Island Changes its Religion: Some Social Implications of the Conversion to Christianity on Bellona Island,” in Highland, Force, Howard, Kelly and Sinoto (eds): Polynesian Culture History. Essays in Honor of Kenneth P. Emory. Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication No. 56, pp. 565-89.
  • PUIA, J., 1969-70. “The Study of Play.” Paper submitted to the Cambridge Institute of Education as Part of the Requirement of the Commonwealth Teachers' Course. Cambridge. Photocopy.
  • PUKUI, K., 1943. “Games of My Hawaiian Childhood.” California Folklore Quarterly, 2:205-20.
  • SUTTON-SMITH, B., 1951. “The Meeting of Maori and European Cultures and Its Effects upon the Unorganized Games of Maori Children.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 60:93-107.
  • —— 1961. “Cross-Culture Study of Children's Games.” American Philosophical Society Yearbook, 426-29.
1   This study was carried out on Bellona in 1971 to 1972 as part of a more comprehensive study about the social changes which have appeared on the island after the establishment of contact with the outer world after the Second World War. The field work was sponsored by The Danish Science Foundation (Statens Samfundsvidenskabelige Forskningsraad) to which I convey my warmest thanks.
I also wish to thank Samuel H. Elbert, University of Hawaii; and Melvin Lyon and Torben Monberg, both from the University of Copenhagen, for their valuable co-operation. They not only have read the manuscript and made many stylistic suggestions, but they also proposed an important critique to some parts of it.
As a reply to a few questions concerning the games described here, I received in January 1974 a notebook from Bellona containing among other things 39 pencil drawings, done by Sengeika Tepuke, Matahenua village. Of these drawings, nine have been selected for this paper. The dynamics and cheerfulness contained in the drawings is astonishing and the manner of the artists is admirable especially if one takes into consideration that drawing or ornamenting never has played any important role in the Bellonese culture. For the drawings and invaluable assistance as field assistant and host, I would like to convey my gratitude to Sengeika Tepuke.
I also wish to thank Joseph Puia, Rennell Island, and Dinna Bjørn, Copenhagen, for their kindness in allowing use and publication of their drawings.
2   Avedon and Sutton-Smith 1971.
3   Sutton-Smith 1961:426.
4   Sutton-Smith 1951:106-7.
5   Elbert 1975.
6   Elbert and Monberg 1965:N165.
7   Monberg 1967; Elbert and Monberg 1965:392-419.
8   For further details about animal stories see Kirtley and Elbert 1973; and Kuschel, 1975.
9   For more details about the oral traditions on Bellona and Rennell see Elbert and Monberg 1965.
10   Puia 1969-70. Puia was born on Rennell, the neighbouring island to Bellona. The two islands, according to the oral traditions, descended from the same forefathers; see Elbert and Monberg 1965:T66. It is amazing how easily Puia acquired a fine command of the English language while participating in a teachers' training course in England. When he left the Solomon Islands his previous knowledge of English was rather scanty. Puia is now an educational officer on Malaita in the British Solomon Islands.
11   Puia 1969-70:9-10.
12   Puia 1969-70:opposite page 70.
13   For a similar version of this counting rhyme see Elbert and Monberg, 1965:29. There is a striking difference between this genuine Bellonese counting game and the “punning formula . . . used for counting” which has been “composed under foreign influence” in Hawaii (Pukui 1943:211). Where the Bellonese form merely is a play with words, the Hawaiian one is a more realistic, matter-of-fact counting of dollar gold pieces, tasty cakes and sand crabs.
14   Puia 1969-70:55.
15   Puia 1969-70:15.
16   Firth and Maude 1970.
17   ngongohu=ngangahu. In songs the vowels are often changed such as “a” to “o”. The translation of this verse is rather tentative as the text was mailed to me in December 1973 and I have been unable to check the translation.
18   Davidson 1937; Firth 1930.
19   Elbert and Monberg 1965:N142.
20   Elbert 1975.
21   Personal information, November 1973.
22   Puia 1969-70:17.
23   Puia 1969-70:50.
24   Feher 1969.