Friday, December 09, 2011

You know how I feel about Terry Tavita's writing, ...I general want to hurt someone when I glance through his propaganda bs, but today, I am absolutely impressed.
The guy has finally written something worth reading...and I even read the whole article.
Yes, I was that impressed.
Or maybe its the fact that its a story from Savaii.
(coz ya know, I'm baised like that)
Anyhow, have a read - its about his search for the asi monogi (sandalwood).

Click here for the story in Samoa Observer

My Anthropological Observation (:
My understanding of the asi manogi was from the revered Head of State, Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi (and from the late Mrs Pili in NUS).

Tuiatua explained the old traditions around funerals in old Samoa, where sandalwood was burned, particularly to (ahem-pardon my macarbe-ness this lovely evening) overcome the unpleasant odours of the deceased. He said that the asi manogi was burned throughout the night, aumaga would take turns turning and keeping the logs burning. Leaves were also placed around the body, adorning the afu elo, the fine mat (afu-cover, elo-stench).

Witnessing it
one day, we went to Palauli for the excavation work at the Pulemelei Mound where this same ceremony was performed. Excavation was parallel to exhuming a grave (I fink that's the faapalagi of  liukofaga?).

This is my fagogo, true story! Aue.
On the day, (Aue) the skies raged and rain fell like always in Samoa. One drop and your hairstraightened afro morphed into a life of its own, scaring ghosts into their graves.
The river swelled and rose and bursted its banks until only the Annandales and the Nelsons 7 wheel drives could cross. The rest had to foot it, one hour's walk in the rain, the mud, the cow shit and lava rocks.
The aumaga from Satupaitea had cleared the forest, leaving only the coconut trees and the skeletons of ancient rock foundations, eerily exposed.
I walked to the top of the Pulemelei and looked all around me.
My God, I was in awe and humbled by its magnificence. Did the Tongans make them do it? UFOS? Pigeon snaring platforms? Whatever these foundations were, it was a blatant reminder that we are shallow remnants of a once amazing history and living culture.
We have lost so so much )-:

Anyhow, I digress. (Aue).

The ceremony started as night fell around us.
Men carried burning aulamas in a single file and the chief cried a funeral chant.
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, ua tala le lagi ma le lagi ma le laaaaaaagi.
I felt goosebumps - I felt the presence of not just the living, but others too.
(auuu - drama queen much?)

At the top of the Pulemelei, a fire was lit and sandalwood tossed in.
It was then and there that, I truly understood the essence that Tuiatua lamented of longingly.
The scent was strong. Pungent even.
 It enveloped us and I felt truly sad for those who passed.
For the first time in my life, I was grieving at a funeral of one.
Or rather, of everyone gone before me.
Being at that ceremony reminded me also of this: My name is TupaimatunaFotuosamoaVaasiliifitiTuisafua, I am from a long line of chiefs and orators and warriors who have graced this land before me. (errr....aichachae! chooohoooo!)

(Epilogue: So I chatted up the boys by the fire the ceremony and even today, I try to erase the shattering words they uttered. The words that killed my nostalgic historical buzz:
The sandalwood they used was bought from Frankies Supermarket. Buggers).


Stivi Galuega said...

Terry's published in the 'Daily' again...Sano truly is an enlightened man.

Lani Wendt Young said...

A beautiful post - love the imagery of the Pulemelei. There are much smaller star mounds up on the hill at Saleapaga cliffs. Standing on those was like stepping into a piece of history, i would love to see the Pulemelei.

And the sandalwood from Frankies? LOL