Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alstonia toreumatis

The fan-like leaves of the Coelobonese devil pine (known locally as the Pokot kudupanatar) are ubiquitous in the carved relief panels of Sulepawak’s cave temples. They are always depicted in the same dimensions as life, and are tinted green even when surrounding motifs are uncolored. Both attributes derive from the use of the actual leaves in the carving process: The sculptor presses a fresh pine leaf against its stone counterpart, fixing it with an alcoholic solution. Once dry, the leaf will have induced a reaction in the volcanic rock, staining it green as deep as an inch.

To the Coelobonese, the passage of the leaf’s essence into its chiseled image is a manifest link between the visible everyday world (the pine tree) and the veiled regions (exemplified by the terminal creature-heads often pictured vomiting streams of ornament, including the leaves). Though the pine’s bark is exploited medicinally, the sacred status of the leaf renders it taboo for any other application. One cannot help but notice, however, that a pile of them gives off a pleasant aroma when burnt.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 126.