Samoa is a group of islands; Western Samoa and American Samoa. These islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean about half way between Hawaii and New Zealand, together they are slightly smaller than Rhode Island. Don’t let the small size fool you, these islands are full of rich life and culture.
The pre-Western history of Eastern Samoa (now American Samoa) is bound with the history of Western Samoa (now independent Samoa). The Manu'a Islands of American Samoa has one of the oldest histories of Polynesia, accompanying the Tui Manua title, connected with the histories of the archipelagos of Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Tokelau, Tahiti, and elsewhere in the Pacific, where Manu'a once had influence. During the Tongan occupation of Samoa, Manu'a was the only island group that remained independent because of the familial relationship between the Tui Manu'a and the Tui Tonga, who was decended from a former Tui Manu'a. The islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u were politically connected to 'Upolu Island in what is now independent Samoa. It can be said that all the Samoa Islands are politically connected today through the faamatai chiefly system and through family connections that are as strong as ever. This system of the faamatai and the customs of faasamoa originated with two of the most famous early chiefs of Samoa, who were both women and related, Nafanua and Salamasina. "Samoa." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 14 May 2008
The rich history has laid the foundation for a rich culture. Samoa has elaborate ceremonies that incorporate music and dancing. Of the two singing is the most popular, but dance is extremely important as well. One of the main dances is the Sasa which is a sitting dance that is performed with only arm movements. Another is Fa’ataupati which is a dance with only men. The men slap their limbs and torso, stomp their feet and sing in rhythm. It is very beautiful to watch and is also mesmerizing.
Ava ceremonies mark special occasions, such as weddings, deaths, or visitors from another village. This ceremony is only done when there is an official gathering of the Chiefs, and will always be practiced in the traditional way. It is an extremely elaborate ceremony that has many parts to it. I will briefly explain the detailed ceremony only in context to the beginning of a marriage of two Chief’s children.
In this culture, it is the woman’s side of the family that hosts the ceremony as well as the whole wedding itself. After the wedding is over, the new spouse lives with the husband’s family, or if they are from a different village, she will go to live with her husband in his village. The custom is a patrol-local style of home. Therefore, the female gives up everything from carrying her father’s name to even having to change religions. Ava is a root that is used by the woman’s village, since it is their responsibility for the ceremony. To start the wedding preparations, the son’s father arrives at the daughters village and is greeted by the hosting village and seated facing the Chiefs. The taupou who is the high chief’s daughter or granddaughter. In this ceremony there is a proper place for everything. Including the people as well as the tanoa also known as the ava bowl, it is a four to six legged bowl with one leg wider than the others. This wider leg will always be placed in front of the taupou. The taupou begins to mix the ava. Coconut fibers are placed in the bowl and will be used to squeeze the ava root into a drink. Specific people are placed around the tanoa to assist the taupou with the mixing, even though they don’t mix the drink, they are there to make sure that she is doing it correctly. Other people are also allowed to serve the drink to the chiefs and others are there to chant the order of who gets the next cup of ava. Once the ava ceremony is coming to an end the tufa’ava, (the one that chants the drinking order) will signal that the last cup of ava...
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