In ancient times, every village in Palau had meeting houses called Bai. There were several basic types, distinguishable by use of form of construction and quality of materials. The Bai er a Rubak, built of fine hard woods and elaborately ornamented with traditional designs and colors, was normally located in the village square serving as a community center or Bai er a Beluu. The Bai er a cheldebechel normally located at the entrance of each village, was used by the men's organization in charge of defending the village.
|The Bai from front|
As the most important building in the village, the Bai functioned as a meeting or council house for the governing elders where they were assigned seats along the walls, according to rank and title. There were no dividing walls, no furnishings, and only two fireplaces to break up the expenses of the hardwood floor.
Symbolic Tribute to Powerful Individuals and Groups of the Village
The four corner posts (Saus) stand for the four important clans whose leaders are the nucleus of the governing body for the village. The two doors jambs at the gable ends represent the four leading women (Ourot). The remaining posts are dedicatedto lesser clans and individuals. Those honored by the post were subject to rewards and obligations in the function of community.
The Palauan Bai is a spectacular combination of decorative art and functionality, unique and colorful. Decorative elements rarely varied. Creativity was usually in the choice of story for the pictographs. Elaborate pictographic art on the gables and tie beams in the interior, result in a vigorous, pleasing and dramatic unity. The walls, in short sections fitted into posts of the outside, are painted in solid bright yellow to enhance and contrast with the ornamented areas. All decorations are painted with earth colorsof ochre, black, white, red and yellow.
|Interior of the bai|
The style and technique conveys a feeling of action. From the zigzag conversation lines to the shape of the head, distroted and elogated with a bun of hair piled on the head held together with a long road (mangrove root comb). Stories were drawn and incised in flat relief and painted with the earth pigments.
Common elements found in the Bai includes the kim (the tridacna sheel), the monkey sign, Chedechuul (the god of construction) and the bat which symbolizes respect in the Bai.
Pictographs on the interior tie beams represent stories from mythology, folk history and current events. Each story, shown in the comic script style is complete on one side of the beam. The story on the first beambeing the most important