19 January 2009

Itaks and Coconuts


I am soon buying my very own itak. Now, if I lived in an agricultural community, this decision would have come sooner and with much less romance. I would have had an itak hanging off my left hip (I am right-handed), using it to clear the persistent tropical vegetation that is often in one's way.

Handmade and heavy.

The straight ones associated with various equatorial revolutions are preferred for making people taga-- and not ripping them off, as it has come to mean, but chopping them to pieces. The curved, top-heavy variety pictured in this post is ideal for slashing banana trunks, sugarcane, softwood, young trees. I've often used ours in place of a trowel (to dig a whole in the ground), in place of a saw (to go through heavy branches), or a cleaver (to open unwieldy fruit like durian). Not to mention coconuts!

Wooden handle and case.

Though I have no photos to illustrate, I really enjoy watching people use their itak to poke, lift, and slap (after removing it from the knife end, to listen for juice content) coconuts, then proceed to whittle a side down until the white flesh peeps out. This they punch a whole through with the tip of the itak and pour the juice out. And I won't even begin to talk about the simple cleverness of slicing "spoons" from the outer husk to eat the meat!

The coconut, unlike other fruit, grows not by letting humans eating its meat, but by leaving it alone. We need force to get into this giant seed, and in human settlements, it is intent (or neglect-- or satiation) that causes its propagation.

A baby coconut palm tree.

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