Culture and tours Samoa

Culture and tours Samoa

Samoan beliefs (ancient)

Everything in the Polynesian world was once steeped in the sacred. Religious, political and social organization was based on beliefs related to aitu, the deified ancestors (great chiefs, warrior heroes, priests) and acts, the gods, who governed the elements (sea, forest, rain, fire…) and human things (war, home…). At the time when European explorers reached the Pacific, the Samoans worshiped in particular Tagaloa the creator; his son Losi, a giant who brought taro to earth; Fa'atiu who reigned over storms and wind; Mafui'e master of fire and earthquakes; Nafanua the Warrior Princess, daughter of Saveasi'uleo, who ruled the underworld (the pulotu); Tinirau the keeper of fish, etc. Throughout the Polynesian area, we find gods with very similar names and / or attributes, which testify to the cultural links between the archipelagos.

Each Polynesian people developed their own forms and places of worship : the marae in Tahiti, the mea'e in the Marquesas Islands (kinds of stone platforms), the malae in Samoa, generally consisting of grassy or sandy areas located next to the common house, in the heart of the village (like the 'Greek agora). This is where the ali'i (the nobles) met, where we discussed the affairs of the village, the wars to be waged, the peace to be concluded, the sentences to be applied ... There too the great ceremonies were held. and human sacrifices were practiced. 

Like many places and things, the malae were title deed (taboo). A large number of prohibitions governed the conduct of each person, depending in particular on their social class. Far from the idealized image peddled by certain European explorers, the Polynesians lived in a world padlocked by beliefs and social rules - which decided the fate of each with little hope of escaping their condition (a little on the model Indian castes).

Fa'a Samoa

More than the custom, it is a state of mind, an attachment to everything Samoan, a way of proceeding and of thinking inherited from 3 years of history and experience. This results in a sort of code of conduct, a know-how governed by a fairly considerable number of actions and inactions, thoughts and non-thoughts ...

Follow the fa'a samoa, it's today adhere to Christian principles without renouncing all ancient customs (just the fallen gods). It is to give full respect to the elders and to place the extended family ('aiga) at the center of everything, even sometimes having to neglect its own needs and desires for the common good. Fa'a samoa also means accepting as intangible the social structure that places the matai - the designated heads of extended families above the crowd.

Samoa has no shortage of matai : there are about 18 of them. The matai is the one who contrasts with the other matai: his word is incontestable. He represents the extended family in religious and political meetings, settles disputes, puts black sheep back on the right path and provides support (often financial) to those in need. The matai is the father, mother and the Holy Trinity in one person. It is so important that even today only matai have the right to stand for election.

Those who disagree with the fa'a samoa and its prescriptions take great risks. Not legal or physical, but social. Changed overnight into outcasts, they suddenly become invisible and lose all social identity - they are no longer included in anything, neither circle of friends nor family. Great progress: in the past, those who broke taboos were irreparably put to death!

 Robert Louis Stevenson

The Samoans called him Tusitala, “the one who writes stories”. It is on the heights of Apia, with a view of the harbor, that the Scottish writer, author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, settled in 1890, just four years before his death ( cerebral hemorrhage), at the age of 44. The archipelago then emerged with difficulty from the civil war, maintained by the rivalry of the German, American and English colonial powers ...

Great traveler before the Eternal, Stevenson traveled the South Pacific from Hawai'i to the Marquesas Islands via Tahiti and Samoa. Falling in love with "these islands that we dream of", he decided despite everything to settle there, claiming a beneficial climate to treat his tuberculosis (which was not at all the case!).

La Villa Vailima, the large colonial mansion which he shared with his wife Fanny, his son-in-law Loyd (for whom he drew the first map of Treasure Island), his daughter-in-law Isobel and ... his own mother, known by the nickname Aunt Maggie, has now become a museum. Nothing has really changed: the period furniture, the travel trunks, the old photos, the engravings, the mats and the lion's skin on the floor, the sewing machine, the bottles from the pharmacy, everything is still there .

During his four years there, Stevenson was not idle: he wrote no less than 14 volumes (some left unfinished), without failing to get involved in local affairs. Defending the Samoans against colonial rule and encouraging them to claim their identity, he gained great popularity in the community - to the point that it was Samoans who, to thank him, built the access path leading to his property ! When he died, 400 took turns to transport his coffin to the top of Mount Vaea, where he is buried.

After her death her mother returned to Scotland, Fanny and her children returned to the United States - Lloyd returned and tried, unsuccessfully, to bring Vailima back to life.

  • Robert Louis Stevenson Museum

Polynesian triangle

Do you have a map of the Pacific? Take a pencil and connect Hawai'i, New Zealand, and Easter Island together. Here is drawn a huge triangle covering well half of the world's largest ocean. It is called the Polynesian Triangle.

Stronger than the Phoenicians, stronger than the Vikings, the ancestors of the Polynesians colonized a considerable piece of ocean. Arrived from South-East Asia through Melanesia more than 5 years ago, they progressed from archipelago to archipelago, first colonizing the nearby lands in outrigger canoes, and finally heading into the unknown. aboard their large double-hulled canoes.

To trace their movements, archaeologists study the lapita pottery, named after a New Caledonian site where the first shard was discovered in 1953. Characteristic with their decorative patterns with needle incisions, they gradually emerged in Fiji, Tonga, then in Samoa, allowing us to date the arrival of the first men in the archipelago around 500 to 1000 BC

At the dawn of the Christian era, when the Lapita world disappears, a new people asserts itself on its eastern border: the Polynesians. Are they the descendants of the Lapita? Are they the result of a new Asian migration, or the fruits of the meeting of the two? Certain elements, such as the similarity between the designs of the lapitas pottery and the Polynesian tattoos, suggest a direct affiliation.

For the Polynesians, Samoa and Tonga become bases to launch the last stage of the conquest of the pacific, even in the most isolated islands: Marquesas (300/600), Tuamotu and Hawai'i (400/650), Easter Island (400/500), Tahiti and Cook Islands (600/800), then New Zealand (around the year 1000). Here is drawn the Polynesian triangle, the largest cultural space ever shaped by one and the same people.

Seasoned sailors, the Polynesians sail from very vast maritime spaces, tackled moreover in the opposite direction of the currents and the winds. How to spot, in this immensity of blue, such small islands? They are guided by the movements of the sun and the stars, the moon and the wind. Their open sea pahi, large double decked canoes, quite similar to modern catamarans, reach 30 to 40 m in length. Up to a hundred occupants sail together on board, men, women and children, pigs, chickens, dogs and food plants, to ensure supplies during the trip and settle down as soon as they land.

But why these trips? A whole bundle of motivations seems to be behind these migrations. No doubt sometimes voluntary, they often seem to have been the result of bans in an increasingly structured society over time, or the result of chronic overpopulation. This did not prevent the different archipelagos from keeping, or less temporarily, links between them.

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