Leisure Recreation and the Arts

Various activities in the sea close to the villages, such as swimming and playing in the water, are shared by girls and boys and by men and women. Women produce a special impressive drum-like sound by hitting the water in a special way, accompanied by lots of laughter. Generally the atmosphere during work, and particularly during leisure activities, is very relaxed, and joking and humor are part of Trobriand life. People enjoy each other's company, especially during the various feasts which take place on different occasions, some of them connected to the churches. A modern form of recreation takes place in the village square, preferably on clear moonlit nights. A group of young men will sing a particular type of modern song, accompanying themselves on guitars and ukuleles, which are sometimes homemade. The girls join in singing and may perform a newly invented type of dance which they call "disco," which has a rather complex set of choreographic patterns. These songs, the texts of which usually tell of love sickness, nostalgia, and sadness, are composed by individuals, mostly young men, and some become popular, spread around the Trobriand Islands, and may even be broadcast on a local radio station. Handicrafts, like producing the banana fiber bundles in the case of the women or carving artifacts in the case of men, are also recreational activities, despite their economic importance. There is very little painting, although there are colorful symbolic decorations on the strikingly carved and painted splash boards (lagim) of masawa boats and on the liku yam houses of high-ranking chiefs. The human body is another object for artistic activity; much body decoration is quite striking and attractive. Generally, it can be said that Trobriand culture is characterized by a highly developed esthetic sense, in the visual and rhetoric arts, music, and dance.

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