"Tie a String Around It"
If you want to remember it,
tie a string around it.
Make a knot and loop the line,
wrap it over your hands to tell a tale.
Around the world, people play games
and illustrate stories with string figures.
The Inuit call it ayahowsit, which means
"play with a string." Their figures are
often asymmetric and difficult to describe.
To the Diné it is na'atl'o' or continuous weaving,
and indeed the patterns are symmetrical and woven
as they explain how the world was made and
the constellations put into the sky.
The Maori say whai, which is short for
Te Whai Wawewawe a Maui, and means
“Maui’s clever string game," recounting myths
about his adventures in designs that are
sometimes quite densely knotted.
These are the tales we tell with our hands,
the many peoples of the world, the same motions
that our parents and our grandparents
learned in their childhood.
These are the things we are proud of,
our stories and our heritage, passed down
by people determined to tie a string around it.
* * *
String figures appear in cultures around the world. Here are some instructions, and this batch has video links.
Read about Inuit string figures, the Arctic project, and see a video of Inuit string games.
Diné string figures are very beautiful. Watch a video of a grandmother demonstrating some.
Maori string figures have a long history. Here is a blog about Maori string games. If you watch this video, you can spot one of the really dense figures -- it looks like macrame!