"By Aeroplane to Pygmyland" Accounts of the 1926 Smithsonian-Dutch Expedition to New Guinea

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Journal of Matthew Stirling
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April 12, 1926 : Makassar

April 12th [See Film Selection #3]

Looked over Macassor early this morning by daylight, walking uptown by way of the docks. Macassor is the principal port of the Celebes, and exports copra, rattan, ebony, sandalwood, etc. It is a fairly busy port and several small steamers were at the docks while we were in.

The principal street is lined with Tamarind trees which lead in a double row from the water. The houses are partly adobe-like construction with a kind of balcony along the second story, or native palm thatch houses, rectangular in shape with concave ridge-pole, the gables ornamented and projecting well over each end. The houses as a rule are built upon piles.

"...Anji Ipoei appeared with his Dyaks; forty of them, each carrying his personal equipment on his back."

At about 8 o'clock this morning Anji Ipoei appeared with his Dyaks; forty of them, each carrying his personal equipment on his back. Anji Ipoei wore a woven fibre cap with several of the black white-tipped tail feathers of the hornbill waving out behind. In one ear depended a large, elaborately carved ornament made from the red beak of a hornbill. The carvings on it represent leeches. He wore for the occasion a white Dutch jacket on the breast of which is pinned his medal of honor from the Dutch Government. A pair of long cotton drawers disappearing into the tops of a pair of large tan shoes and fastened above the knees with blue garters did not detract so much from his imposing appearance as one might suspect. The rest of the Dyaks were dressed in pure native costume - a loin cloth carried around the {p. 9} waist with a long strip hanging before and behind. Some wore the woven basket caps ornamented with feathers, others a very large painted palm leaf woven hat in the shape of a low cone. All have both ears pierced through the upper part with a round hole somewhat larger than a lead pencil, in which holes are carried small articles that may be thrust through them. The lobes of the ears have been pierced and stretched by weights until they hang half way to the shoulders. Only a few were wearing ornaments in the lobes of the ears[,] in each instance in one ear only. These ornaments were of various sorts, carved, hornbill beaks, pieces of porcelain, carved bits of wood, etc. They are for the most part of rather small stature but very well built and with thick chests and muscular arms and legs. In color they have a somewhat yellowish tinge and are much lighter in complexion than the Malays.

Their bearing is very good and they look one directly in the eye when addressed and have none of the servility about them common to the natives of the other East Indian Islands. Their luggage is interesting; they carry woven baskets with decorations woven in in [sic] black and yellow, sleeping mats, their "mandows" [sic] or knives with elaborately carved wood or bone handles and a wooden sheath. The large knife is used for decapitating the head on their raids, and within the handle of the large knife is a small one used for extracting the brain and soft parts when preparing the head as a trophy. Most of them carry shields carved from wood and decorated with patterns in black. These patterns are similar to the tattooing that many of them have on their thighs. {p. 10} For weapons they use the blow-gun with poisoned darts. They were vaccinated on arrival at Macassor from Borneo and, as a result, five or six of them are sick. They have been camped on a small river near the town awaiting our arrival. They brought 10 canoes with them from Borneo and these were loaded by them aboard the Fomalhout and this being completed we set sail from Macassor at about 11 o'clock this A.M.

Just below the knee, above the bulge of the calf, the Dyaks wear their fish line, which is wrapped about so as to form a leg ornament when not in use. In the afternoon the Dyaks looked over the ship. They are keenly interested in everything, not with the idle curiosity of the Malay who looks just to pass the time, but with an intelligent desire to find what it is all about and particularly to try and discover how certain objects are made and their use. For instance, they were intensely interested in Dick's fish line, which is a woven cord. They examined its structure with the minutest interest. Looking at the dining room aft, the electric lights, the brass work, the graphaphone and all were subjected to careful scrutiny. Many of these things Anji Ipoei had seen before and could explain, but to the majority they were entirely new.

"The greatest mystery of all however, was the aeroplane..."

The greatest mystery of all however, was the aeroplane, perched on the after[-]deck. Le Roux explained that it was to fly and did his best to make clear what it was. Anji Ipoei, the sophisticated, studied all of this with grave countenance for some time, then rendered his verdict. "It cannot fly. Only birds can fly. If it can fly, then it is not made by man." Some time later {p. 11} I went forward with Prince and Hans, and the Dyaks showed us their knives, shields and baskets. In my limited Malay aided and abetted by ample gestures, I indicated that Hans was the man who made the great bird to fly. Anji Ipoei communicated this to the rest and they all showed great interest in Hans, even though they are obviously more than skeptical about the whole flying business.

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