Traditional Huli Society: 5
(Copyright ©1998 G. C. J. Lomas)

(Photos copyright © 1998 Malachy McBride, ofmcap.; Drawings copyright ©1998 Alphonsus Mariot)

Social Behaviour

The social behaviour of the Huli cannot be described in detail here, and I shall concentrate on brief descriptions of the behavioural patterns of women and of men, and on the notion of taga loss of face.

wali    A woman's daily round involves herding the pigs, looking after the children, and weeding and gathering food from her garden.  She prepares food for herself and her children by baking sweet potatoes in hot embers, or steaming them in a oven made by heating stones and then placing the food on them before covering them over with banana leaves and earth.  She works away little by little at tasks such as rolling string and making it into pig ropes or string bags, and at making skirts for herself and her daughters.  She spends much time socializing with other women, establishing a network of relationships and inter-dependencies through casual barter and exchange, and through simple phatic communion.  She acquires knowledge of gamu religious formulae in this way, and uses them when the need arises.  She may also practise on and become skilled in playing the gãwã mouth bow or the hirijule jaw's harp.  She joins other women of her kindred to wail and mourn at burial ceremonies, and may become a leader of dugu chants.  She is similarly present and involved at clan and subclan rituals, and will expect her husband to give her vegetables and pig meat cooked in the long earthen ovens dug out of the occasion by the menfolk.

Woman wailing
Huli woman performing a dugu wailing chant.
Her daughters receive no formal education from her or from the other women of her group, but copy their mother and assist her from an early age with the domestic chores.  When they reach puberty, they will be instructed briefly by their mothers or by older women on the need to hide during menstruation, and on the gamu to be used to secure a strong husband and to protect him when he is away hunting or at war.  They will begin to notice young men, especially the haroli members of the bachelor cult , whom they will see from time to time at ceremonies and at celebrations.

A girl may become a man's first or second wife, and will usually leave her subclan to join his.  She will have her own house, to which her husband never comes, and will meet him in the bush to consummate their union.  Older women will assist her at childbirth and supply advice on the gamu and other measures necessary for childbearing.

agali    A young Huli boy leaves his mother's house when he is about nine years old and goes to live with his father or a male relative.  He ceases to accept food cooked by women, and begins to learn from his father important things like gardening, hunting, cooking, and warfare.  He learns who his enemies are and where the subclan and clan boundaries lie.

He learns to respect and obey the older men, who reward him for minor services and generally protect him, giving him food and shelter when he needs them.  He gradually and informally begins to acquire skills, and in his early teems will begin to make his own garden and look after himself.  He will be given small pigs by friends, and will either herd them himself or get his mother or sisters to herd them for him.

He may or may not become a haroli, and if he does he will have to rely on his network of relationships within his subclan when arranging for his garden and pigs to be cared for while he is away.  In return for this care he is expected to pay pigs and food.

While with the haroli, his knowledge of sacred myths, lore and gamu is deepened.  He learns how to conduct himself in a manly way, to put up with unusual privations, and to negotiate the difficult and sometimes dangerous task of surviving in the dense bush.  He is taught the strategies necessary to combat the evil influence of women, and how to weave the upward curving manda hare haroli wig that is worn by members of the haroli.

When he leaves the bachelor cult he becomes a warrior, returning to his subclan but ready to join in warfare between other subclans, even when he has no personal interest in the matters under dispute, for to be brave and daring is to earn esteem.  Thus he becomes involved in the chain of conflict and revenge that is endemic in Huli society.  He will not be significant in subsequent peace negotiations, but will attend the dawe anda mourning feasts for those killed.  He will not be allowed to remain for the evening courting parties that follow these feasts, at which only married men and unmarried women may be present.

Indeed, he will not have much influence at these feasts, nor in decision making at subclan level, but will follow the decisions and directions laid down by older men.  He will join the hunting parties that from time to time go to the high bush to seek game and to harvest anga pandanus nuts, and will learn the secret tajanda bi bush language used by his subclan to confound the dama spirits and dinini souls of the dead.

Caught by a dama
Caught by a dama in high bush!

He will soon marry, having little part in the negotiations over wariabu bride wealth, but being responsible for assembling the number of pigs eventually decided upon.  If he cannot meet the price, he will have to rely on his kinsfolk and friends to assist him, and will incur debts that he must eventually repay in full.  But he will not be pressed to make repayments, and within the delicate and complex web of Huli interpersonal relationships he will remain, for the rest of his life, always to some degree in debt, with others always to some degree in debt to him.
He may begin to specialize in certain forms of gamu, paying pigs to others for such knowledge.  If he pursues his specializations, he may eventually become acknowledged as a manaji knowledgeable in lore, and in his turn will begin to command fees for his services.

Generally, his interests expand and his individual initiative begins to develop as he starts to reside multilocally and to participate in the affairs of a number of subclans simultaneously.  When conflicting claims arise among these subclans, he may adopt a neutral position by withdrawing to another place, or he may espouse the cause of one particular group (cf Glasse 1968: 136).

As his wealth increases he has to acquire more and larger gardens for his pigs, which in turn means more wives to take care of these assets.  More demands will be made on him for assistance, and he will become recognized as a homogo important man.  He becomes known beyond the confines of his own clan, and he will begin to wield an influence throughout a wide area.  (cf Glasse 1968; 136)

Such a homogo has to have considerable interpersonal skills, knowing the right things to say and the correct registers to select when addressing people.  Others, less endowed with these talents, will achieve influence in the other modes of leadership outlined above, specializing in the registers associated with these pursuits.  (cf Glasse 1968: 135-136; Peters 1975: 1-17; Cheetham 1979: 88-89)

taga    This word can be glossed as shame or loss of face, and, together with turu well-being or maintenance of face, is central to a behavioural norm that says one should avoid inducing taga in another and foster his/her turu.  Failure to observe the prohibitive aspect of the norm can have serious consequences, since taga always has to be repaired or assuaged.

If the taga is private, then the experience can normally be compensated for in private.  However, if taga is caused publicly, the aggrieved party will usually seek some form of public redress, such as a moot at which a compensation can be fixed (e.g. Goldman 1980: 219-220).  If taga is experienced by whole subclan, the compensation claimed can be high, and war may ensue if it is not met.

turu is seen as a condition that each person should be allowed to to maintain in himself or herself.  To ensure that one does not destroy this condition in another by causing taga, even accidentally, requires circumspection in a society where words and actions are in the public domain.  To foster turu in another requires dara empathy or sympathy, and certain associated skills.

Brown and Levinson have proposed a universal,
                                highly abstract notion of face which consists of two specific kinds
                                of desires (face-wants) attributed by interactants to one another:
                                the desire to be unimpeded in one's actions (negative face), and the
                                desire (in some respects) to be approved of (positive face).  (1987: 13)

Given that every utterance is potentially face-threatening for both speaker and hearer, the speaker employs a range of politeness strategies to cope with this problem (Brown & Levinson 1987: 67 et seq).  These include whether or not to do the face-threatening act; whether to do it off record (ambiguously) or on record (unambiguously); whether to do it baldly (explicitly and clearly) on record or to redress the hearer's positive face (positive politeness) or negative face (negative politeness).

This fairly comprehensive description provides a template for surveying a speech community's politeness strategies.  It is possible to cross-reference it to the broad categories of Huli taga-avoidance (face saving) strategies and turu-fostering (face maintenance) strategies.

taga-avoidance may address the hearer's positive or negative face.  It is operative, for example, in the use of bi jobage veiled talk - which consists of circumlocutions and covert references - when airing grievances, and in the use of softeners such as be (almost  eh? or  what do you think? or okay?) when addressing people one is not sure of who are evidently more powerful than oneself.

turu-fostering strategies usually attend to the hearer's negative face, and include affirming devices such the repetition of a part of a previous speaker's utterance as a prelude to adjoining one's own; or utterances such as
                            agali     hege   -ne   -me      bajwa  ore     bi-ri                          -da
                            man       tongue-DEF-ERG   well      very    do.2Sg.SIMP PAST-MOD
                            you're not just a talker: you've acted on what you said
                            dara     -ba
                            I empathize with you (said on coming upon someone enjoying a sunset).

daraba can also function to repair taga not induced by the speaker, as I discovered one day when I fell off my motorbike and a by-stander expressed her sympathy in this way.

Besides humans, dama and dinini also have to be taken into account.  If they are offended, they will  feel not taga but keba wrath.  However, their negative face can be addressed and they can be made to feel turu by propitious behaviour.