Definitions starting with H

ID #1936


 For many years most Bahamians had to make for themselves everything from houses and boats to household articles. While a great deal of creative energy is lavished on the magnificent costumes of JUNKANOO -an art form highly developed in the Bahamas-a more practical craft with artistic merit of its own is STRAW WORK , which has provided handy articles for domestic use and export ever since the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The STRAW for delicate work comes from MANELLA , a variety of sisal whose leaves are soaked until decaying, then pounded to extract the fibres to be PLAITED or braided. Broader strips are obtained from the fronds of coconut trees or the central, unopened leaves of several varieties of palmetto such as BOAR TOP , POND TOP , or SILVER TOP . The LEAVES are dried, then stripped from the BONE or central spine of the palm frond, producing STRINGS for plaiting as well as TRASH for brooms or floor covering. The breadth of the string varies according to the different PLAIT pattern for which it is intended.

From four to thirteen strips of similar width are woven by hand into one continuous length, new strings being inserted as the previous one is fin-ished. A fixed length of plait, usually five FATHOMS or thirty feet, is customarily shipped as a BALL when the work is to be completed elsewhere. There are many different styles of plaiting, the names for which often describe the pattern produced. Fine string is used in SPIDER WEB and LACE EDGE ; two patterns with holes are VENTILATOR and HOLE-IN-THE-WALL ; varied color patterns achieved by mixing coconut and TOP STRING are known as PEAS AND RICE , SALT AND PEPPER , or CHECKERBOARD . Other names suggest the pattern - V-PLAIT , SHARK TEETH , JACOB'S LADDER , SHINGLE , PINEAPPLE , FISH GILL , and CONCERTINE .

Many articles for everyday use were once produced in this fashion, such as CROP-BASKETS , CHIRONES or CROOKS , CRAB-BASKETS , FISH POTS , and SHOULDER BASKET . Nowadays these plaits are largely made for the souvenirs that VENDORS sell to tourists at the Nassau straw mar-ket, such as NATIVE BAGS , hats, and other arti-cles decorated in DYE STRAW , shells, and raffia.

Tags: Encyclopedia definition, straw work

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Last update: 2012-12-04 07:43
Author: Holm and Shilling, DBE, 1982
Revision: 1.3

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