Samoa is a Pacific island nation consisting of two main islands and four smaller ones. Separated from the rest of the world by the deep waters of the Pacific, Samoa has developed a distinct culture of its own.
Samoa hosts a population of around 201,316 individuals. Native Samoans account for 96% of the population of the country. Samoan and English are the official languages. Protestant Christians, Roman Catholics, and Mormons account for 52.6%, 18.8%, and 16.9% of Samoa’s population, respectively.
The use of the umu is a hallmark of the traditional Samoan cooking. The umu is an earth oven where food is cooked by trapping it in a pit in the ground. Food is baked, smoked, or steamed in the umu. On Sundays, large meals are cooked in the umu and served to all family members. It is customary for the older family members to eat first, followed by the younger ones and the children. Fish and other seafood are widely eaten in Samoa. Rice, taro, and coconut are other staples of the diet. Pork is the most popular meat eaten in the country. The luau is a popular dish which consists of coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves. The dish is baked in the umu and then eaten in its entirety.
The puletasi is a traditional dress for Samoan women. It consists of a matching tunic and full-length skirt with Samoan designs. The dress is usually worn to cultural and formal events. The lava-lava is another traditional garment that is basically a single rectangular cloth worn as a skirt. The lava lava is worn by both men and women. A shirt or t-shirt is worn on top. The designs may be plain or intricate. Some Samoan men have traditional tattoos on their lower body and upper legs. The tattooing is carried out in the absence of anesthesia and is extremely painful. A headdress made of feathers and shells called tuiga is worn during ceremonies.
Literature, Art, And Craft
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, only oral literature existed in Samoa. It included fa'agogo (folk tales and legends), fa'alupega (genealogies), tala (mythologies and histories), pese (songs), etc., that was passed through generations of Samoans via word of mouth. In the mid-19th century, Christian missionaries from England helped develop a Latin script based Samoan language. Written literature started being produced in the country since then. Initially, the oral literature of the country, especially the poetry and folk tales were produced in the written form. In the later years, novel literary works were produced by Samoan writers and poets in both English and Samoan language.
Both Samoan men and women can be tattooed. Finely woven mats are crafted by Samoan women for use in ceremonies and gift exchanges. Bark cloth paintings of Samoa are quite famous. Mulberry bark is beaten to produce bark cloth. Paintings or patterns are then painted on the cloth using a natural plant-based brown color. The paintings called siapo may be used for clothing or for decorative reasons. Seashells, coir, and coconuts are used to make jewelry, ornaments, and other accessories. Wooden sculptures are also produced by Samoan craftsmen.
Samoan music is played using a number of traditional musical instruments. Music from the fala (a rolled-up mat beaten with sticks) often accompanies choral singing. A conch shell is blown for signaling. A variety of wooden slit drums are also used to produce music. Such drums are also used to call village meetings, to announce war, for long-distance signaling, etc. Other musical instruments like a jaw harp, a nose-blown flute, a raft panpipe, and a soundingboard are used for entertainment purpose and often accompanies songs and poetry recitals.
Siva is the traditional dance of Samoa. The sasa is a group dance performed to the rhythm of a drum beat. The maulu'ulu is another group dance that is performed by only women. The slap dance called fa'ataupati is performed by Samoan male. No musical instrument is used for this dance. The taualuga is another dance performed by the village chief. It often serves as the inauguratory dance during a Samoan cultural festival.
Samoan cricket called kilikiti and rugby union are the two most popular sports played in Samoa. Soccer and wrestling are also popular in the country. A number of Samoans today play in the NFL. The national soccer team of Samoa is ranked 149th in the world. The national rugby team of Samoa has participated in every Rugby World Cup since 1991. Other sports played in the country include netball, baseball, volleyball, boxing, mixed martial arts, etc.
Life In Samoan Society
Samoans prefer to do their activities together. Faith, family, and music form the backbone of the Samoan culture. The traditional homes are called fale. The fale are large houses without any walls. They can host more than 20 people at the same time. Family plays an integral role in the life of an individual. The extended family or aiga lives and works together. The eldest members of the household have a higher authority. They are also greatly respected by the other family members.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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