Pentecost - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Sa speakers subsisted precolonially by swidden horticulture, fishing, and forest foraging. The main crops are still taro and yams, although these are complemented by sweet potatoes, manioc, arrowroot, sago, and breadfruit. Some leafy green vegetables, sugarcane, squashes, melons, and tomatoes are grown. They fish extensively in the coastal waters off the fringing reefs and in freshwater streams for fish, lobsters, shrimps, crabs, eels, and octopuses. They have extensive groves of fruit and nut trees and they also forage for wild greens, ferns, algae, and mushrooms in the forest, where they hunt birds, flying foxes, snakes, and stick insects. They herd pigs, which are consumed on ritual occasions only. Kava is cultivated; only men may drink kava in the traditionalist villages, where it tends to be reserved for hospitality and ritual occasions. In some Anglican and Catholic communities women may drink kava, but they do not do so as routinely as men; in Church of Christ Villages its use is totally proscribed. Traditionalist and Christian communities diverge greatly in their links to the cash Economy. The latter have converted far more land to copra, cacao, and coffee and are more dependent on introduced foods such as rice, tinned fish, meat, biscuits, and tea. Some cattle are being raised commercially, but most are killed for local feast consumption.

Industrial Arts. Apart from indigenous architecture, a range of tools, weapons, and ritual artifacts are produced. The precolonial tool kit included wooden and stone axes, adzes, shell scrapers, digging sticks, clubs, bows and arrows, and fishing spears, but these items mainly have been supplanted by modern steel implements purchased from local or urban stores. The old digging stick persists, however, and in traditionalist villages people still use bamboo vessels for cooking and carrying water and carved wooden food platters lined with banana leaves for eating. But even there cans, plastic buckets, kettles, pots, and pans are becoming more common. Outrigger canoes are still fashioned by hollowing out tree trunks and lashing them with lianas. Slit gongs, spears, clubs, and shelters are still produced for ceremonial purposes. An ensemble of ceremonial masks and headdresses made in the past are today rarely made for use but more often for purchase by museums, art collectors, or tourists. In addition to these wooden crafts made by men, women soften and weave pandanus and bark to fashion clothing and mats for sleeping and exchange at birth, marriage, circumcision, and death. In traditionalist villages women wear fiber skirts made of pandanus or banana spathes and men wear woven pandanus penis wrappers and bark belts. Elsewhere, women's attire is typically a Mother Hubbard (a loose dress) of skirt and blouse, while men typically wear shirts and shorts or trousers or, more rarely, wraparound skirts.

Trade. In precolonial times Pentecost was part of an intensive regional trade system with the neighboring islands of Ambrym, Malekula, and Ambae. Items traded included yams, pigs, mats, ochers for body painting and sculpture, and ritual forms such as dances and chants. Modern trade is focused on the purchase of imported commodities at small local stores with money derived from cash cropping or wage labor. There are no local markets such as those in the towns of Port Vila and Santo.

Division of Labor. The sexual division of labor is pronounced. Men exclusively hunt and fish from canoes, while women engage only in reef and river fishing. Men carve wooden artifacts; women weave pandanus and palm leaves. Men construct house frames; women make thatch battens for roofs. Women look after small pigs and sows, while men nurture highly valued tusked boars. Agricultural work is shared, although men do more of the fencing and clearing and women more of the weeding and harvesting; however, regarding yams, men alone can plant the seed yams and women alone can mound the topsoil. Household maintenance and child care are fairly evenly divided between the sexes. There are also divisions of ritual labor, with part-time practitioners that include male priests (who initiate agricultural cycles), medical diviners, midwives, sorcerers, and, in the past, Warriors and war diviners.

Land Tenure. Primary rights derive from agnatic relationship with a founding ancestor who claimed prior occupation, although secondary rights are granted to agnatic descendants of later arrivals, who were given land by the original occupants. Land, like fruit and nut trees, is inherited patrilineally and shared between sons and daughters. Rights are held in perpetuity by male agnatic descendants and for their lifetimes by females. Women cannot pass on natal land to their Children. Land rights may also pass matrilaterally if payments in pigs and mats are not made at death by the agnates to the matrilateral kin of the deceased. Temporary rights of usufruct may be granted to affines or those without locally available land. Retaining ownership of land depends on continual use and thus continual residence. Control over the distribution of land is ultimately vested in the senior male of a descent category called buluhim.

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