Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Painted Prince

"He was painted all down the Breast, and behind, between his Shoulders; on this Thighs (mostly in front); and in the Form of several broad Rings, or Bracelets, round his Arms and Legs. I cannot like the Drawings to and Figures of Animals, but they were very curious, full of great Variety of Lines, Flourishes, Chequered Work, &c., keeping a very graceful Proportion, and appearing very artificial, to the point of Wonder, especially on and between his Shoulder-blades.

By the account he gave me of the manner of doing it, I understood that the Painting was done in the same manner as the Jerusalem Cross is made on Men's Arms, by pricking the Skin and rubbing in a Pigment. But whereas Powder is used in making the Jerusalem Cross, those at Meangis use the Gum of a Tree, beaten to Powder, called by the English Dammar, which is used instead of Pitch in many parts of India.

He told me that most of the Men and Women on the island were thus painted, and that they also all had Ear-Rings made of Gold, and Gold Shackles about their legs and Arms. Their common Food from the Produce of the Land, was Potatoes and Yams. They had plenty of Cocks and Hens, but no other tame Fowl. he said that Fish (of which he was a great Lover, as wild Indians generally are) wss very plentiful about the Island, and that they had Canoes to go fishing in. thye often visited the other two small Islands whose Inhabitents spoke the same language as they did.

This was so unlike Malayan, which he had learnt while he was a Slave at Mindanao, that when his Mother and he were talking together in their Meangian Tongue, I could not understand one Word they said. And, Indeed all the indians who spoke Malayan, and who are the trading and politer sort, looked upon these meangians as a kind of Barbarian, and upon any occasion of dislike would call them Bobby, that is, Hogs, which is the Greatest Expression of Contempt that can be, especially from the Mouth of Malayans, who are generally Mahometans.

And yet Malayans everywhere call a Woman Babby, by a Name not much different; and Mamma signifies a Man, though these last two Words peroperly denote Male and Female. And as Ejam signifies a Fowl, so Ejam Mamma is a Cock, and Ejam Babby is a Hen. But this is by the way."

- William Dampier (1651-1715)

(Paragraphs mine)

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