Ngavalus - Technology


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In Ngavalus, the supplies and tools for completing most everyday community tasks can be found in the surrounding forest. Trees, especially sago trees, are used for constructing houses, tools and roofing as well as a source of food. They also utilize every part of the tree. The actual tree is used for making saksak, which is their staple food, by beating the tree into small pieces which are washed and squeezed to release the saksak. The stalks are used to create the washing apparatus, which is a trough configuration with two levels, one for washing and the other for collecting the saksak. The stalks of the leaves are used as panels for the houses. The stalk is rounded on two sides and flat on the other two so the two flat sides must be cut off to be used as siding. Both of the sections cut from a single stalk must be usable; if they are not then none of the pieces from that stalk can be used. The two pieces from the same stalk are then positioned beside one another on the house and should fit together leaving minimal space between them.

In addition to the wood of the tree, the people also make use of the leaves of the sago tree. The leaves of mature sago trees are collected while they are still green and are sewn using maris, a bush vine, onto strips of bamboo, which are then secured to the rafters of houses using more maris. Because the supplies are located in the bush and must be transported back to the village, the men of Ngavalus have developed a bundling apparatus that allows them to carry all of the supplies at once. The men place six bamboo stalks in two parallel rows of three, creating a cage of sorts. As the leaves are gathered, they are placed between these stalks. When the cage is about half full, one or more bamboo stalks are placed on top of the leaves, leaving the two ends of the bamboo sticking out on either end. The men then continue collecting leaves on top of the bamboo stalk(s) until the cage is full. When enough leaves have been collected, maris is wrapped around the pile of bamboo and leaves at the gaps in the cage to secure it all together so it can be carried using the exposed ends of the bamboo. Due to the size and weight of this final bundle the men call it a “pig.”

While sago is a staple food and tree used for a number of purposes, bamboo is another product of the bush also used for a wide variety of things. As previously stated, the bamboo shoots are cut into strips and used as the spine for sago leaf roofing. It is also used on the walls and windows of the house as well. Bamboo shoots found in the bush are cut into thin strips to be used for the frames of windows, the frames of panels and patches of the walls, and for the windows themselves. The men in Ngavalus use a weaving technique that involves bending the bamboo strips back and forth in a window in order to allow some light, visibility, and air flow to pass through the small openings while closing off the space in the wall.

With all of the techniques the people of Ngavalus have developed to complete everyday tasks, a few modern technologies have become more common in the village. On a very basic level, manufactured tools and utensils are more commonly used than traditional methods, the prime example of this being the widespread use of bush knives and metal bowls. Some members of the community have mobile phones and digital cameras. However, there is little accessibility to electricity except for gasoline-powered generators. Purchasing and fueling a generator ends up being a significant expense so they are used sparingly.

Date Entered: August 2011