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Samoa

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Culture

Independent Samoans are very tradition-oriented, very steeped in a complex set of social hierarchies, courtesies and customs that regulate their social, religious and political life. Independent Samoan culture is based on fa'amatai, a system of government that has a chief, or matai, governing an entire aiga or extended family. Wealth and food are distributed on a needs basis and honour and social standing is shared or shouldered equally by all members of the aiga. The matai represents the family on the village council, metes out justice, and makes sure that all customs are properly observed. In fact Independent Samoa has more rules of etiquette than a finishing school for young ladies and a keen sense of propriety and respect. The matai is also a living archive, responsible for remembering the ancient folk lore, the family genealogies, and the stories of the old gods, and passing them onto his successor.

Although Samoan culture dates back thousands of years and is still passed on through poems, genealogies and stories of the old gods, most Samoans these days are devout Christians. Religion is a big part of Samoan life and Sunday service is the most important event in the week.

Absolute fealty to, and respect for, the church leader is a must, as is the strict observance of religious rules. This whole-hearted embracing of a transplanted religion may seem a little odd but more than one person has suggested that Christianity on the islands has been 'samoanised'. In much the same way that games of cricket are played with three-sided bats and Samoan checkers can include eccentric rules like jumping over the whole board, so the Samoan version of Christianity often has non-Samoans scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Dancing, singing and music play a big part in Samoan culture. The fiafia was originally a village play or musical presentation performed by a number of villagers but these days it simply refers to a bit of a Samoan knees up at the larger hotels. Both the siva (a dance performed by women acting out impromptu stories with their hands) and the sa sa (a dance performed to the beating of a wooden mallet) are performed. Tattooing is a significant rite in Independent Samoa and involves more than a visit to the local Tatt Parlour on a Friday night full of Dutch courage and bravado to get a Betty Boop figure stenciled on a bicep. At age 12 or 13 Samoan males go to the tufuga, or tattooist, and get tattooed from waist to knee. The tattoos represent the strength of a man's heart and his spirituality but on a more practical note if you can bear the pain of a months' worth of tattooing, you can bear anything.

Food in Samoa derives mainly from tropical crops, root vegetables, coconut products, fresh fruit, pork, chicken and, of course, seafood. The traditional Polynesian feast is cooked in an umu, an above-the-ground oven. The traditional Sunday meal is nearly always cooked in the umu. 'Ava or kava is a drink made from the ground roots of pepper plants and has a mild tranquilising effect. It is usually drunk as a prelude to ceremonial gatherings and village meetings.

For more general information on Samoa, go to:

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We have included Samoa in some of our specials to the South Pacific, eg. our Bounty Voyage and South Sea Dream Voyage.

Another option is to create your own package to Samoa by utilizing the seperate travel components, like hotels, carrental, flights and excursions on the islands.

 


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