The Cradle Carriers
Very little was ever recorded on the womens activities within the Kabi clans of the Mary River Valley-Cooloola coast region. It appears the womans role in daily routines was that of a food gatherer, meal preparer, and of child caring. She was secretive in rituals and beliefs. She was the cultural guardian of social and marital classes. Men were not privy to what we term today as womens business.
Courtship itself was always performed through clan law. Should a man take a wife without the consent of the woman's relatives, the law states her male relatives or another suitor must challenge his actions by means of a fighting duel. Such a male challenge under Kabi law was called Kgin-bumbe - the fight over a woman. These fights were conducted when lawbreakers were apprehended or challenged.
Male combatants were always reminded of the code of law prior to the challenge. The code prohibited the intentional striking on the shoulders and breast. Class distinguishing scars must not be defaced. Neither must attack the other unawares. Fighting must always be performed face on. Any violation of the code was punishable by death from the relatives or spectators. The slaying of an adversary while in the sitting position of recovery oblivious to his senses was a most despicable act. The perpetrator would be speared to death. Most combatants adhered to the code fortunately.
On matters of personal ownership, a woman was only permitted to possess food tools, nets, threads, baskets and so forth. Rights of ancestral land succession did not apply because in Kabi custom, there was scarcely aught to claim except as territorial hunting lands. These themselves belong to the entire clan families as a group and not as the personal property of one, two or three persons. Of land succession then, there was no dispute. The woman possessed, apart from her tools of survival, only a name and her assets of womanhood. She was man's most precious property according to clan law. Stripped of his woman and devoid of pride, the warrior became nothing but a shell of his former self - a pathetic being of self-imposed out-casting similar attitudes to that of the European society when a man loses his woman.
The age-old custom in many cultures of acquiring a woman as one's "own property" persists in all connubial dominions. Even in the most primitive forms of relationship, the coveting of women as man's right of possession is identical to that of the Kabi law. This was applied either by force, agreement or by authority of age. To act upon or outside this law sentenced or forced young warriors to be alone (to temporarily become a member of the unspoken class of Pinaru) until a woman was obtained through capture or grant from another source.
A common trait of Kabi women was the tenderness extended to blind relatives no matter what age he or she professed. Such persons were given the best of everything in foods. They were always seen in the best of condition while others bordered on starvation. Should they require immediate assistance, a sign was given by stretching forth a spear or walking stick. No word was ever spoken. On sight of such action, a woman (or if a man was of closer proximity) would cease their activity, take the spear or stick, and show sincere guidance for whatever ails the relative or friend. The blind one would then give a blessing of good fortune.
An early historical observers report on childbirth customs states:
An early observers report on Mothers-in-law, Sons-in-law, and womens marriage status notes:
Based on early pioneer reports, it appears apart from the initiation
and clan identification markings, all other scarring on men and women was for decoration.
Mothers began the markings on a child and added designs as the years passed until the
child was conversant with the procedures and able to perform the finished designs as part
of their teachings. As one attained adult status, the nose septum and ear lobes were holed
for the placement of a bone ornament or shell decoration. The Dhakgulu (of the
coast) were not of the same origin their ornamentation was presented as body stains
of delicate design like that of a tattoo. It is also pointed out that mothers ensured
their young children (boys and girls) never ate any of the taboo foods. These were always
associated with sexual spiritualities and associated activities.
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