My inspiration for picking the culture of Samoa, is from the Disney movie Moana. My 16 month old daughter absolutely loves this movie, as do my sons as well. They loved the music, the scenery, and the story. I wanted to show them the meanings behind the movie, and I want them to love the culture it represents. We watch this movie almost everyday, which gave me a chance to focus on the cultural meanings. This movie focuses on the Polynesian Islands as a whole, but the Polynesian Culture is the same "dialect" as the Samoan Culture. Samoa is considered the "heart" of Polynesia, and I want to share with all of you the wondrous culture of Samoa.
Samoans are known for their outstanding hospitality and vibrant outlook on life. The culture of Samoa is one of the most lively, resourceful, and appreciated cultures that I've come across, and I wanted to give an insight on why. The typical stereotype of a Samoan is arrogant, unintelligent, and overweight. These stereotypes were created by those who didn't understand the culture or had their own ethnocentrism "fog" their minds from understanding a different culture.
Samoans do spectacular dances in both traditional and modern choreography in celebration of their culture. There are different Samoan style dances that have different parts for the men and women to tell a story in reference to their people.
The different styles of dance are: Taualuga, Sasa, Manu Siva Tau, and Fire dancing. Each one of these pertain to a specific meaning in which they are performing. For example, the Manu Siva Tau sounds aggressive because its suppose to! The Manu Siva Tau is a type of war dance, usually for encouraging and exciting the Rugby players and fans before a game.
The islands of Samoa are in a tropical environment, making the weather warm and humid. As part of this culture, there are clothing styles that Samoans wear, not only to beat the heat, but also to represent their culture. The ie lavava is a known piece of fabric, that is bright in color and pattern, and worn by both men and women. This piece of fabric is an informal attire that is worn usually around the house or cooking. This fabric is to be worn over jeans, shorts, skirts or whatever clothing they chose. This is a staple for their culture to show the upmost respect for any guests and their elders.
The clothing pictured here are known as Puletasis; a more formal attire for women. Puletasis are worn at celebrations such as gatherings and church. In our book in Chapter 3, it explains on page 109, the relationship between communication and context. It explains that "context is created by the physical or social aspects of the situation in which communication occurs". For Americans, what might seem as dresses that the men and women are wearing, Samoans are respecting their culture by following what their ancestors wore. One cannot go to church in ordinary clothing; they have to wear Puletasis or ie faitagas. Wearing those shows the elders and chiefs in the villages, the honor their people have for their culture and ancestors.
These are ie Faitagas, the formal clothing that the men usually wear. They are about the same as a ie lavalava, but the fabric is different by being thicker. These are more formal and can be worn with long buttoned up shirts, tucked in. The cultural clothing of Samoa has a big impact to visitors on the island. Many mistake them for towels or dresses which brings a misjudgment of the culture. A lot like Scotland, their kilts have a cultural meaning and can get highly offended when it is called a skirt. Clothing itself carries a communication between people because it creates first impressions and results in judgement. So before even considering the first impression in your head, have an open mind because you might be surprised at the culture of the person.
Tradition still runs very strong in Samoan culture, which brings me to the traditional Samoan tattoos. This is one of the most painful yet rewarding traditions of all. These patterns are from ancient designs and represent different honors. Depending on the tattoo, it can range from the back down to the shoulders, or the middle of the back, down to the knees. The men's tattoos are more extensive and large, but women tattoo's are not as extensive or big. The timeframe the men would receive these tattoos range from the ages of 14-18. This is determined when the young man is considered mature both physically and mentally. As generations passed, the ages have differed but the procedure has not. A sharp cutting tool is dipped into an ink made of the soot of burnt candlenut shells. This process can take hours, days, and even weeks to complete. The finished product represents the rank, honor, and responsibility that person has.
Here is a short 5 minute video of the making of a traditional Samoan tattoo!
Personal Experience on cooking
These next couple of pictures are ones I took myself. I wanted to experience how Samoans cook on a day to day basis by cooking a few of their recipes. Samoans are one of the most resourceful cultures in the world. Everything serves as a purpose, and absolutely nothing goes to waste. The island of Samoa is covered with thick vegetation, and can grow just about anything due to the rich volcanic soil. The coconut is one of the most useful foods that grow on the island. Not only does it serve as something to eat, but also a fire starter and a strainer. To say the least in my opinion, cracking a coconut was hard work!
This funny little stool is used for scraping the inside of the coconut. This of course is only something similar to what Samoans actually use. A sharp wooden stick would do the job in getting all of the meat out of the coconut shell. Speaking of it, the coconut does not originally come out brown like this. It is covered in a thick husk that was too removed by a sharp stick imbedded in the ground. This procedure has been done that way for thousands of years.
Cooking in the Samoan culture has been untouched of their gender history. Both men and women have duties when it comes to cooking. The men would prepare the fire pit while the women would prepare the food that is going to be cooked. Even today, Samoans practice the same cultural rituals as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. In America, the gender history had altered throughout the years by the revolution of equality of women's rights. However, in Samoa, tradition is respected, and the same tradition is to be used to honor the culture of their forefathers.
The final product that I made is called Fa'apapa. It is a dense coconut bread that only consists of 4 ingredients. This bread was sweet to the taste without an overpower of coconut. Just making this bread alone with shredded coconut from scratch, really made me break a sweat! It puts appreciation on how easy we have life now, but also, it was a lot of fun learning a different recipe that my family loved to eat!
This soup is called Sua i'a, a fish stew made with only 6 ingredients. Fish such as Bass, Parrot FIsh, and other big boned fish are mainly used for this soup. My family absolutely loved this stew and I think its going to be a regular on our menu!
Samoan history is a big part of the Samoan culture today. It is the foundation to their beliefs and their respect for their culture. For example, during celebrations and gatherings, high chiefs and the elderly receive their food first. Not just receiving their food, but they get certain parts of the roasted pig. Everyone has to wait to eat until the high ranks are fully complete with their meal. This is showing respect and honor for their high chiefs and elderly.
Bali Hai is a Polynesian restaurant that my husband and I visited to have a broader perspective on the Samoan culture on guests. The island of Samoa is a tropical paradise with clear waters, fresh food, and welcoming people. Guests from all over the world travel to Samoa to have a one of a kind experience, in which they always receive. The Samoan culture highly respects guests and make them feel very welcome in their island because they want to share their culture. In chapter 4 in our book, it describes how history influences who we are and how we came to be who we are. The history of the people on the island brought a positive attitude and appreciation of their island. They wanted to put an interest in the guests to grasp the earthy and admirable culture of their people to share with the world.
As the staff from Bali Hai explained to me, the Polynesian culture is one of the best cultures to get to know. The people are very joyful, unselfish, economical, and well responsible. Everyone has a role in the household and respects it. Family comes first and should remain that way.
Each generation passes the knowledge and history of their ancestors before them. By acknowledging their responsibilities as a Samoan and the way of their ancestors, it gives the new generation to have the opportunity of their family traditions. This is why you will find many Samoans still following true to their traditions. It brings a sense of closeness to their culture and defines a part of who they are. The power that their traditions hold, brings the passion that Samoans want to share with the world.
From the cooking, clothes, dances, and traditions, I hope I was able to give you all a little taste of the Samoan culture. When we stop and think about our identity, we think about what made us who we are. Samoans have their families, ancestors, and traditions to guide them on their life choices. Ultimately it is up to them on the path they choose, but for the love of their people and island, they continue to expand their cultures to the new generations. What really opened my eyes for this culture is the passion and love that they cherish. Not just for their culture, but for each other and their mother island as well. As "guests" learning and visiting their culture, I want everyone to really absorb the importance and appreciation one can learn from another culture.