Traditional Huli Society: 2
(Copyright ©1998 G. C. J. Lomas)
(Photos copyright © 1998 Malachy McBride, ofmcap.; Drawings copyright ©1998 Alphonsus Mariot)

Hereditary Social Structures

hamigini    This is a social group with residential rights within a defined territory.  Membership is reckoned in terms of descent - cognatic according to Glasse 1968, agnatic according to Frankel 1986.  Whatever the case, membership is established by being able to trace ones ancestors back through many generations, and thus demonstrate ones claim to identity within the group.  The Huli term hamigini is equivalent to what Glasse calls parish (Glasse 1968: 23-24), while his term parish section equates with the Huli hamigini emene.

hamigini emene    This is a unit residing within and owning a portion of the territory occupied by a hamigini.  At this point, I shall start to call hamigini a clan and hamigini emene a subclan, with the proviso that these labels take their definitions from the Huli terms to which they have been made to correspond.  Subclans are autonomous and are the basic social unit of Huli society, making war, initiating peace and paying indemnities without obligations to consult the rest of the clan (cf Glasse 1968: 24-25).  Claims to membership and to territorial rights are based on a person's being able to establish descent from the founder of the subclan, or relationship with a subclan member.  Affines also become resident members, as do those who are permitted through bonds of friendship to reside within the subclan and align themselves with its activities (cf Glass 1968: 24-35).  Non-kin, however, can never claim the position accorded to full members of a subclan.  This position has to do with the amount of security enjoyed as regards land tenure, and the extent to which a person is morally obliged to be involved in subclan activities.  It also governs the degree of support a person is expected to give or can expect to receive in discharging obligations or accepting death indemnities from others.  This basic pattern is complicated by the fact that a person may, by descent, be affiliated to more than one subclan, while a further complication arises in that people can, and often do, reside multilocally.  Hence, an individual will usually belong in one way or another to more than one subclan at a time.  This mobility and freedom of choice mean that kinship and other ties extend beyond  subclan territorial boundaries.
  Young Huli man dressed for festivities

The young man's face is painted with trade store paint, and includes a vertical blue line in the centre of the forehead.  Traditionally, this colour would be obtained by using a clay such as dobe or dongomaambwa yellow clay would provide the traditional back-ground face mask, while goloba vermilion clay or hare red clay would have been used around the chin. 

His manda wig is trimmed with grass flowers, dange lini, and topped with yari iri cassowary plumes.  There are yellow feathers at the front of the wig, set into a forked flourish of parrot feathers.  Just under the wig, he wears a lebage snake skin

He displays the usual half moon halepange mother-of-pearl shell round his neck, with a cluster of plastic beads above it. 

The background is the grass roof of a traditional anda house.

Man in festive attire
             The extent of close kinship ties within Huli society is reflected in the language: brothers and sisters  include what we English ethnic groups would call half-brothers, half-sisters, and all parallel cousins (cf Glasse 1968: 148).  Within these parameters, siblings of the opposite sex call each other reciprocally mbalini, female siblings call each other hagabuni, and male siblings share among themselves the reciprocal label hamene.  The label aba includes ones father and all those whom he calls hamene, while the term ãija includes ones mother and all those whom she calls hagabuni.

The terminology and the semantic fields covered by each label indicate the generally wide concept of family among the Huli, although when occasion demands finer and more precise distinctions can be made.  Thus, the relationship between paternal uncle and nephew/niece is designated by the reciprocal terms ajane, while ama is used reciprocally of the relationship between maternal aunt and nephew/niece.  It can also be seen that while a subclan is an extended family, kinship structures go well beyond its confines.
                although an institution, is conveniently considered here.  It is male-dominated, in that a man is free to take as many wives as he can afford, but a woman is allowed only one husband at a time.  Choice of partners is restricted to some extent by hereditary kinship structures, custom demanding exogamy but forbidding the marriage of close cognates (cf Glasse 1968: 49).  This leaves open the possibility of marriages extending beyond clan confines, and even into other language groups.

A young man and woman may freely choose to marry each other, or a man's bride may be selected for him by his sublcan or close kin.  Either way, the marriage is instituted by the bride's kin receiving from the groom's kin a suitable wariabu bride wealth - payment made mainly in pigs, varying in number from fifteen to thirty.  The groom has the right to designate the bride's place of residence, and has the duty to build a house for her and give her land on which to work a garden.

The bride is expected to rear the children, tend the garden, and herd the pigs.  Girls are her continuing responsibility, but her sons go to live with their father when they reach the age of nine or ten.  In general, the husband is deemed to have greater rights over the children than the wife, and even after divorce he can claim the major share of any wariabu bride wealth paid for daughters, even though they are living with a former wife or her kin (cf Glasse 1968: 54).

Divorce is not infrequent, the commonest cause being the failure of the woman to produce children.  Indeed, there is an implicit understanding that a marriage can only become dabu binigo ore true marriage when children begin to appear.  A man will be anxious to recover pigs paid for a woman who proves to be lazy or unbiddable, while she on her part can end an unsatisfactory union simply by leaving her husband (Glasse 1968: 76).