Riwut Racing

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Riwut canoes are miniature canoes that zip along at high speeds. Riwut racing seems to have phases of popularity, but in recent years, if you go to the Marshall Islands Club (on the back road in Uliga) in the early evening, you will often see dozens of the miniature canoes being raced along the oceanside reef.

The wonderful pictures in the slideshow were taken by the crew of Westward II alongside the Uliga reef. Thanks guys!

This particular toy canoe is fast, surfing on the waves in the lagoon of Anebun. Get out of the way, my toy canoe will come and bite you, wash you ashore, bite you, bite you, wash you ashore.

Like many facets of Marshallese culture, there are a number of legends that star the riwut. The following is from Life in the Republic of the Marshall Islands by Anono Lieom Loeak and Veronica C. Kiluwe.

Once upon a time in the iroij’s village of Bouj on the island of Anebun, Ailinglaplap Atoll, there lives two boys from two different families. One was a son of the iroij and the other the son of a rat, who was once a beautifulprincess. The favorite sport on the island was kariwutwut (toy outrigger canoe racing). One day the rat’s son took his riwut (model outrigger canoe) to play. His riwut was a bako korak (little shark). When he arrived on the beach he saw the iroij’s son playing with his riwut that was made of wood. The rat’s son hid where the iroij’s son couldn’t see him and began to chant as he sailed his riwut. “Wa ijejei i jan mokakai nabubu wa eo erotlok ko eworioti no ko iarin Anebun, nojak ane eo im barjak ane eo, balek mar jako. Rakwaj jen maan wa e wao bwe enaj kuj iok ak enaj tak yuk, ekuj yuk, ekuj yuk, ekuj yuk etar yuk.” (This particular toy canoe is fast, surfing on the waves in the lagoon of Anebun. Get out of the way, my toy canoe will come and bite you, wash you ashore, bite you, bite you, wash you ashore).”
While he changed, his riwut sailed towards the iroij’s son and bit his ankle. The iroij’s son cried and ran home to his father.
The rat’s son took his riwut and returned to his mother. The mother asked if he had been careful not to be seen.
“Don’t worry,” replied the son. The routine repeated itself day after day.
Soon the iroij became curious and asked why his son always came home crying after sailing his riwut, so head called upon his workers to follow his son to find out what was going on.
The following day, his son took his riwut to the beach. When he arrived there the rat’s son was already hiding in the same spot. Again, the rat’s son let his shark riwut sail toward the iroij’s son as he chanted. The riwut again bit the ankle of the iroij’s son, who began to cry.
The iroij’s workers jumped out of the bushes, ran after the rat’s son, caught him and took him to the iroij’s village. When they presented him to the iroij, the iroij was surprised because he did not know other people were on the island. The iroij asked the boy where he came from and who he was with. The boy replied that he was with his mother. The iroij let him go, but told him that he wanted to see his mother and him the next day.
The rat’s son quickly ran home to tell his mother. When his mother heard the news, she became very worried. The told her son they should rest to ready themselves for their visit to the iroij’s village.
The following day, the mother woke her son and asked him to grate a coconut. After he finished, she asked him to oil her skin and push her into a puddle. He did not understand but did as she asked.
When his mother came up from the puddle, she started to change. She asked him “Dide taeo (what is the length of my hair)?”
He replied “Dide mojalulu (short hair).”
His mother wasn’t satisfied. She said, “Push me in again.”
When she came up the second time, she had changed more. She asked him “Dide ta eo?”
He replied “Dide laplap (medium length).”
His mother still was not satisfied. She said, “Push me in again.” When the mother came up the third time, she had turned into a very beautiufl woman. She asked him “Dide ta eo?”
He replied “Dide armwe (long and beautiful hair).”
She was satisfied. She said “Now, let us go to see the iroij.”
When they arrived in the village, the iroij was stunned by her beauty. He immediately invited her into his house, and she became his third wife. Because of her beauty, the other wives were jealous and gossiped about her. They claimed that she was good for nothing.
She became very unhappy because of the way the other wives were treating her, so she asked the iroij if she could visit her home. The iroij allowed he if she took the other wives.
When they arrived at her home, she started to beat the aje (drum) as she chanted. “Kije dik eo ton tonton tok (little things come, come out).” When she had finished, many people came out of the bushes, singing and carrying food and flowers. She and the other wives took the food and flowers back to the iroij. He and his people were very surprised. Because of her people’s generosity she “ainbwolbwol jallok’ (walked respectfully in the presence of the iroij) and took her rightful place in his household.


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