This article includes both Inbound and Outbound information about this image.
Inbound Artist: various Birdfolk artisans
Outbound Artist : M Kelley, 2014
Created from handprinting stencils unique to specific regions of the Kkaxe Canyon, this example personifies the distinctive markmaking identifying the Satta, or “Thumb,” Flock of the Kkaxe River. The Satta Kkaxe are renown rockclimbers and guides whose territory runs from the winding Oxbows and Southern Bluffs, to the hazardous and remote Northern cliffs.
Derived from “Sa’ttang,” the tongue word for “five,” the name of this Flock refers to early inside jokes that the nimble folk raised among the rocks of the Kkaxe must have extra fingers to help them scramble over the difficult stone faces. Aptly, the Satta flock motif reflects this association with fingers: rows of lines in segments to match the short length of a phalanx, the mid length of a full phalange, or the long length of a metacarpal.
Further identification of specific Satta sects is complicated by the numerous variations on the markmaking motif: exact patterns vary to identify different cells, climbing skills, and regional or skill specialties. Fiercely independent and self-sufficient, the Kkaxe as a whole was one of the last areas to fully unify under the Birdfolk Council, and the Satta remain still today as one of the more schismatic Flocks in The Inbound Lands, with many of their sects run as independent cells rather than the vertical model common to most Birdfolk Flock structure.
With a flock motto of “Many And One” (a metaphor of the collective power of fingers into fists, stones into canyons, and folk into flock, a power only attainable when supported by the will of the individual), Satta Kkaxe are largely unique in this horizontal structure. For these squads, it is not uncommon for guides to operate solo or in small fireteam groups of three or five, asserting operational freedom and personal direction, while still held within the bounds, general orders, and overall accountability of their larger governing sects. This freedom is earned at a high price: unlike most Flock structures (which actively mentor incoming employees), true acceptance into Satta Kkaxe company comes only after intense scrutiny and extensive training, under often brutal environmental conditions, in which the character, grit, and resourcefulness of the candidate can be ascertained. Satta Kkaxe are known more than any other Flock for their habit of recruiting (or poaching) promising members from other Flocks, and for their tendency to dismiss training candidates who do not live up to their high standards. Though the organization allows a high amount of freedom, critique, and explanation for individual action, they are equally ruthless to dismiss or discipline within their own ranks those who fail to maintain the standards of Satta Kkaxe and whose actions would damage the whole.
Thus, the marks and rows common to the Satta motif also echo this motto, the overall pattern distinguishable only by the rows created by the individuals who have earned their right to be marked, and who can stand separately but also together.
The other, lesser articulated symbolic association with the Satta Kkaxe motif ties to this unique structure, and its influence in their past: as mercenary groundforces during pre-Unification skirmishes between competing Birdfolk Flocks, and for their continued history of Satta Kkaxe membership as the primary source of recruits for the Tota’ng, a scouting division of Birdfolk Special Services. Tota’ng Satta Kkaxe – along with their philosophical counterparts from naval caravels – were largely responsible for the “irregular” strategy and tactical success of engagements during the Beanfolken Conflicts, and for shaping the Tota’ng into cell-based insurgency tactics that dominate its structure today. (This structural familiarity leads many of the Tota’ng to apply for or return to life within the Satta Kkaxe after the end of their service.)
Though the ritual is rarely practiced today, it was common for pre-Unification Satta mercenaries (and for later Tota’ng groundtroops) to assert scare and intimidation tactics through the act of dipping the talons of their fingers and feet into sacrificial blood (often, but not always, that of fauna animal). Particularly aggressive individuals were known to paint themselves more fully with sigils intended to call for the death of particular enemies by name, with markings whose meanings identified crimes in which the attacker sought justice or revenge, or as general coverage to signify that the folk had welcomed the presence of death as wartime companion.
Though the Thumb pattern is understood to exist prior to these rituals, the spots, drips, and raw nature of the Thumb is deeply and irrevocably associated with the ritual of blooding, and for the communal scars of continuous warfare.
Silkscreen on fabric, printed from a handpainted stencil, 2014
Additional Productions on fabrics and paper, 2014 to present
Created from a silkscreen produced from a handpainted stencil, this Inbounds pattern is replicated in silkscreen forms on paper and fabric as part of the Flock Motif series. Variants of this design can be found in whole pattern reproductions, or reworked as elements within designs for Souvenir Editions. Reproduction prints can be purchased through pop-up embassies or online merch sales.