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Floor washing -lipay- with gobar cow-dung is still done is some ordinary houses, but the special treatment of cows and bulls with a herbal mixture pakheba is almost forgotten.
Lipay, lipe, lipey (n) Is a mixture of cow dung, clay and water from Hindi – लीपना līpnā – ‘smearing; plastering.’ Lipe used in a sentence; they lived in the usual Tapia houses of the time, with thatched roofs and floors of lipay.
Tapia, a mixture of mud and indigenous grass for walls, and river clay lipay as a beautiful plaster are all legacies of the indigenous people [in Trinidad and Tobago] replaced over the centuries.
Lipay Historical Context
The East Indians in Trinidad introduced the art of constructing the ‘Tapia house’, referred to as a jhoparee, in their native homeland of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, where many still exist in India today. These structures were built using indigenous materials from the environment, including forest lumber, leaves from palms/grasses for covering, and clay re-enforced walls by a grass, known as Tapia grass dwelling house its name.
The final touches were done using a coating of clay mixed with fresh cow’s dung into a paste-like texture. The floor was also prepared and enhanced with this paste. The process was known as ‘leepaying’, which is similar to plastering. To maintain the building’s integrity and strength, ‘leepaying’ was a routine task done mainly by East Indian women.
Various words and phrases from Trinidad & Tobago can be traced back to English, French, African, Hindi, and Spanish origins. For instance, growing up in Trinidad and Tobago is fascinating because the slangs can change over time. I have lived in the United States for 20+ years now, and every time I travel back to Trinidad and Tobago, I have to reacquaint myself with the words and phrases that have emerged.
Finally, Trini folklore such as Papa Bois is an oral tradition meant to pass on the next generation’s stories. Other Trini phrases in the vernacular are Ganga Channa, Bad John, Goat-Mouth, Quito-Quito and Under Bamboo.
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