Don't come to me for that! Go gawk at some pics of Channing or somethin' somethin'.
We all know that women in Samoa - or Samoan women in any country have expectations weighed upon them from the moment they are born.
A new born babe, who will bring wealth and joy to our home. Amen.
Some of those expectations include: Ye shall be a virkin until you get married. Uma Upu.
However, the reality for many young women is different.
Young virginal and God fearing samoan women sometimes trip over tipos on the way to church or some might be singing into a diffrerent kind of mic on the way to choir practice. But for many others, they are molested, raped usually by someone they trust.
This does pose many problems for perfect Samoan families.
The shame they will feel is immense, because people are looking and laughing at your broken ekalesia and madakan virkin.
Sadly, take away the humour and we accept that incest, rape and subsequently, unwanted pregnancies take place in our community.
But this isn't the purpose of my faikakala tonight, actually, ua kau galo le purpose o le kala, oh right, confession.
In our beloved country, when a sin is acted upon, the perpetrator may ask for forgiveness through a ifoga.
I mentioned ifoga a while back, so I can't be bothered retelling but in brief, ifoga is the practice where you, the sinner and another person/s of your family will cover yourselves with a ie toga (fine mat) and wait in the sun or rain for the victims family to make their decision:
To forgive or to not forgive and chop your head off or tell you to get screwed.
What intrigues me about the ifoga process is that in some cases, the perpetrator's family will turn to a church leader to lead their side. Because a man of God will dissuade any ill-feeling or anger.
Isn't that intriguing? Talk about blurring of the lines between culture and religion.
When my grandfather was a young man, he travelled extensively throughout Samoa. He was a teacher, an a'o pese (music composer) and was also a good looking tall man who was very a masterful orator, he later got into Parliament. Lets cut to the chase. He was hawt and women noticed him. And contraception wasn't in Samoa yet. You figure out the rest.
When he was married, my grandmother (his wife) told us the many times that they would wake up at the crack of dawn in Fagamalo and out in the front yard, a ifoga was presented.
I was a little confused when this story was told because I didn't understand why the knocked up woman and her family were asking forgiveness from the man's wife. But that's how it worked. She was in the wrong for sleeping with a married man. Poor married man. NOT!
Somehow, these ifogas happened a few times haha - and every time, the old lady (Tiatia's mother) will walk out and yank the fine mat off the bowing family members and tell them off for doing this. For she know that her son was the culprit, not the impregnated woman.
Years later, all the children of my grandfather would grow up knowing each other, some who are awkwardly around the same age.
I guess I want to write about this to discuss the role ifoga plays in dispute resolution. Performing one, even today can lessen the charges or weight of punishment. As a community that is about the collective, I guess performing the ifoga showed that the entire family are taking ownership and responsibility for the crime. After all, we are never ever about I, ME the individual, instead, we are the WE, the family, village, etc. We, as a family who will publicly bow and beg for forgiveness.
SuicideIt got me thinking about suicide. Specifically, the high rates of suicide in our community. I remember in the 90's - when I was 2 (uh huh) - when Samoa made world news for the extremely high rates of suicide per capita. I remember attending those awareness events where this was discussed. As a community, and the messages were driven by the leaders.
I think, we, as a community STILL fail at communicating and engaging in dialogue about suicide.
Why are we quiet about suicide?
Silence is the killer. Yet, for the honour of our families, we will embrace silence.
Earlier this year, during one of our youth events, an amazing woman stood and spoke about suicide and the importance of communication, and of all of us being kind to each other. We were reduced to tears. Talk to someone please.
She made me think really deeply about her message: Be kind to one another. Yes please. Be Kind.
I find that so many Samoans are absolute assholes - and this is clearly displayed on social media. Seeing the discussions after Miss Samoa is a classic example of how cruel people are. Cruel, hurtful, malicious and cowardly, against young women to had the the courage to be in the public space, to be judged and criticised. Why do so many of us see the need to do this?
What am I doing now about all this?
I'm still doing my youth events here but I feel like I can do so much more. Obviously, I have two babes that are the most important kolilas in my life who I want to spent time with. So am being selfish about balancing my time with them and my events.
One of the most powerful mediums I'm come to rely on, irrespective or age groups have been the telling of fagogos., much like what I'm doing here.
Somehow, encouraging people to narrated a story, even if it's about snapchat or having no bus fare, does wonders and is hilarious most of the time, but I'm finding it much more fun and meaningful.
Tomorrow, I embark on another fagogo journey, this time with teenagers -so help me Allah!