Suya - Settlements



The Suya lived in large circular villages whose layout expressed important cosmological principles and their social manifestations. The villages themselves were temporary—the Suya moved to a new village site on an average of once every ten or fifteen years—but their organization was enduring. Regardless of the population size, the basic village structure was always the same. Extended uxorilocal family houses were built in a circle around a large cleared plaza, in which one or two small men's houses were constructed—one in the east and/or one in the west. The plaza was the public and largely male domain, used for ceremonies, meetings, and dancing. The moiety-based men's houses served as sleeping places for bachelors and clubhouses for the adult men; membership in the clubhouses was determined by names (not by kinship). The eastern men's house was associated with the men of the Amban ceremonial moiety, whereas the western one was associated with the Kren. The surrounding houses were female-dominated domains, occupied by families related through women. Every house had a name and a particular location in the village circle (for example "The White House" was located in the south, and "The House Where the Animal Dances Are Danced" was in the east).

Behind the houses, a zone of scrubby brush where people defecated and threw trash was known as "the dead area," and beyond this were the old gardens (if the village was in a forested area) or the open savanna. The gardens were, in turn, surrounded by the still uncut forest. Each concentric spatial zone was less "social" and more dangerous than the one inside it, and the contrast between the social space in the center of the village and the domain of wild animals in the forest was a central principle of dualism in the Suya cosmology. As the Suya moved and constructed village after village, each followed the same pattern, with the same groups and named houses in the same spatial relationships to one another. Each village reestablished the relationships among enduring social groups and with the natural domain.


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