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Old 31st December 2014, 06:55 PM   #1
Spunjer
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Default "Is it really a Cockatoo?"

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Originally Posted by Ian

The absence of clear data is a persistent problem, but I think we need to be careful to avoid making assertions that are not based on solid documentation or reliable sources. Otherwise we add to the existing confusion.

Cheers,

Ian.


spot on, Ian! for this same reason why i take Cato's book with a grain of salt...
let's take the most commonly used term from his book: Kakatua. supposedly, the pommel on krises and barungs are representation of the cockatoo bird, or kakatua, as Cato called it. but is it, really?
there's one specie of cockatoo bird in the Philippines, and it's only found in certain parts of the Philippines. there were probably big population in Mindanao and Sulu a long time ago, but not anymore in this day and age. another thing is, why aren't cockatoos mentioned in any legends or sagas? or represented anywhere else in the Moros' ukkil art? for that matter, the term kakatua is not even a filipino word. i believe the term kakatua was a carryover from the 1920's and 1930's when weapon catalogs would refer to these as cockatoo (like) pommels.
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Old 31st December 2014, 09:35 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spunjer
spot on, Ian! for this same reason why i take Cato's book with a grain of salt...
let's take the most commonly used term from his book: Kakatua. supposedly, the pommel on krises and barungs are representation of the cockatoo bird, or kakatua, as Cato called it. but is it, really?
there's one specie of cockatoo bird in the Philippines, and it's only found in certain parts of the Philippines. there were probably big population in Mindanao and Sulu a long time ago, but not anymore in this day and age. another thing is, why aren't cockatoos mentioned in any legends or sagas? or represented anywhere else in the Moros' ukkil art? for that matter, the term kakatua is not even a filipino word. i believe the term kakatua was a carryover from the 1920's and 1930's when weapon catalogs would refer to these as cockatoo (like) pommels.
I believe the word kakatua is of Malay origin and refers to the bird that we call a cockatoo. It is possible that the word has been passed down from its Malay origins and is applied correctly to barung and kris hilts. Even though cockatoos are no longer widespread in the Philippines, and there may be no history of cockatoos among their legends, the vestigial Malay term may well have persisted as these swords made their transition to the Philippines. Or it is possible that Cato or some other authority simply took a term used in other Malay cultures and applied it inappropriately to the Moro examples.

We can see many examples of both processes in ethnographic arms and armor. There are many examples of foreign words being incorporated into the Philippine dialects (bolo, daga, keris/kris, kelewang/klewang, parang, pisau, sumpit/sumpitan, etc.). There are also plenty of examples where outsiders have used completely alien terms to describe native weapons.

In regard to the latter, we talk about native weapons having fullers, clipped points, pommels, hilts, chisel grinds, bolsters, ferrules, ricassos, features "at forte", etc. None of these are terms used in the original cultures, but we all apply them and we readily understand what we are talking about because the Western European meaning of these terms is our common knowledge.

Once again, we can get caught up in the "name game." Alan Maisey is absolutely correct in warning us against engaging in this exercise, unless we are willing to delve deeply into the culture and history of the weapons and the people who use them. Even then, this may be a futile exercise because the meaning of some things has become lost or obscured by time.

Ian.
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Old 31st December 2014, 11:14 PM   #3
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we could see how it resembles a bird's head. we could almost perceive the beak and the plume, but why is it that the middle part, the one we perceive as the eye, the shape stays the same, in that it has a somewhat triangular motif, regardless if it's a regular pommel, or the miniaturized version. the shape stays the same.
the Indonesians view their keris with the blade up. let's do that with the emphasis on the pommel...
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Old 31st December 2014, 11:15 PM   #4
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...now it takes a whole new image. we can see the vestigial tail and head, and what we perceived as the eye becomes the wing. pretty neat, huh? i took the liberty in encircling the obvious parts
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Old 31st December 2014, 11:23 PM   #5
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in the later part of the nineteenth century, when these pommels became even more spectacular, one could clearly see the sarimanok image; the head is more pronounced, and one could see the ruffled feathers on the tail.
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Old 31st December 2014, 11:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian

Once again, we can get caught up in the "name game." Alan Maisey is absolutely correct in warning us against engaging in this exercise, unless we are willing to delve deeply into the culture and history of the weapons and the people who use them. Even then, this may be a futile exercise because the meaning of some things has become lost or obscured by time.

Ian.

that is true. but if the intention is way off, then it needs to be researched and corrected. as Moro weapons is concerned, a lot of collectors are pretty hang up on Cato's book. i understand that since his book is looked up as the final authority in this subject (moro weapons), a lot has been refuted since it came out, and ironically, it is with the advent of internet via e-books, emails and conversations with the people from the same region where these swords came from, museum who are more accommodating with their collections, etc... is it peer-reviewed? no. but then again, who are these so-called peers?
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Old 2nd January 2015, 02:19 PM   #7
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i would think this would be an interesting topic to discuss, but i guess it's too early in the year???
just to reinterate, you said:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
...Or it is possible that Cato or some other authority simply took a term used in other Malay cultures and applied it inappropriately to the Moro examples.
...
In regard to the latter, we talk about native weapons having fullers, clipped points, pommels, hilts, chisel grinds, bolsters, ferrules, ricassos, features "at forte", etc. None of these are terms used in the original cultures, but we all apply them and we readily understand what we are talking about because the Western European meaning of these terms is our common knowledge.


Ian.


in his book, cato wrote this (Moro Swords, p. 25):

All barung pommels, and many kris pommels, are modeled after the head of the cockatoo (known to the Malays as the "kakatua" or "kinadangag"). This magnificent crested parrot is native to the Southern Philippines and Indonesia. Its elaborately-feathered crest, curving beaks and stately regal bearing have captured the imagination of Moro artists for many centuries. The cockatoo motif became widely accepted throughout the South in a relatively short period of time.

Some Indonesian swords were fitted with pommels that are somewhat akin to the Moro kakatua. It is possible that early hilt makers in the Southern Philippines came into contact with the motif in the course of their trading and combative encounters with the Indonesians. Upon their return to the Morolands, artisans probably redesigned the motif, imbuing it with their own unique style and flavor.

To the Muslim Filipinos, the kakatua motif symbolizes lightness, and the ability to fly up into the heavens, leaving danger and death far behind.


as i've mentioned before, the cockatoo as a pommel motif has been used since the days of Bannerman et al. cato probably just went by this and elaborated with his own imagination.
granted, what i theorized is my imagination as well, reason i thought it would make an interesting topic for discussion...

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Old 2nd January 2015, 06:35 PM   #8
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Speaking for myself only .
I expect that this form of pommel is uniquely Philippine in origin .
I cannot recall encountering this form in Indonesian hilts I have seen; have others here ?
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Old 2nd January 2015, 07:14 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
Speaking for myself only .
I expect that this form of pommel is uniquely Philippine in origin .
I cannot recall encountering this form in Indonesian hilts I have seen; have others here ?
Rick:

I think this is a most difficult question to answer because the origins of the so-called kakatua hilt are probably lost in time and we may never know for sure. Certainly, the same form of hilt exists beyond the Philippines in other Malay cultures--it is often seen in N. Borneo, Sarawak, the Sultanate of Brunei, and even on some pieces from what is now mainland Malaysia. I don't believe we can say with any degree of confidence where this form of hilt originated.

It is conceivable that in the northward migration and transformation of the Indonesian keris to the Moro kris that it underwent changes along the way. It would not surprise me if, for example, the kakatua style hilt actually arose in the Sultanate of Brunei which held sway over the Muslims of the Philippines for a century or two, before and after the arrival of the Spanish.

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Old 2nd January 2015, 08:19 PM   #10
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Ron:

Thanks for opening a new thread on this subject. I was thinking of doing the same, but I'm pleased you beat me to it.

The sarimanok story and the evidence you present is definitely thought provoking, and I can see where you are coming from in trying to identify a more Moro origin for this feature.

There seem to be a number of problems with this theory, however.

First, the bird you describe by inverting the hilt is anatomically incorrect with respect to the wing structure. And it is not just on this example, it is on every example I could find in my files and online. The rounded part of a bird's wing (represented by the small circle or spiral) is actually the "wrist" of the forelimb. When a bird's wing is folded up, it is extended backwards from the "shoulder," flexed at the "elbow," and flexed again at the "wrist," with the "fingers" pointing towards the rear of the bird. This can be seen in the X-ray picture attached below where the wing has been partly unfolded. I don't think Moro artists would have perpetuated such an inaccuracy for centuries without someone noticing the mistake and correcting it. I have attached an artist's depiction of the sarimanok and you can see the correct position of the spiral/circle.

Second, the sarimanok story is a legend mainly related to the Maranao people of Mindanao. It seems a stretch to think that this relatively minor group of sultanates in the 17th and 18th centuries would have such a profound effect on the style of weapons throughout Muslims in the Philippines, N. Borneo, Brunei and mainland Malaysia. The usual pattern of influence is from top down, not bottom up.

While it's a great idea and interesting story, I don't think it is the source of the hilt style that Cato called kakatua.

Ian.
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Old 31st December 2014, 11:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
I believe the word kakatua is of Malay origin and refers to the bird that we call a cockatoo. It is possible that the word has been passed down from its Malay origins and is applied correctly to barung and kris hilts. Even though cockatoos are no longer widespread in the Philippines, and there may be no history of cockatoos among their legends, the vestigial Malay term may well have persisted as these swords made their transition to the Philippines. Or it is possible that Cato or some other authority simply took a term used in other Malay cultures and applied it inappropriately to the Moro examples.



Ian.

i'm still not sold on that, Ian. to blindly follow something that is totally irrelevant to the culture just doesn't make any sense. what would make more sense is if those pommels represent the fabled sarimanok, which has relevance to the culture. we see these on a lot of ukkils, or okirs. let me explain...
we always look at the pommel from this point of view
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