Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Snakes in Samoa

Seeing all the dramatics about snakes in Samoa and I wish I could punch people in the face through the screen.

Snakes have been in Samoa since the first Samoans got there,
We have snakes in our legends and we have snakes that live inland, in cool dry places and in plantations.

The snakes we have are not poisonous or dangerous.

Just talk to anyone from Asau or Aopo, they are well known for their snakes, and I'm not even talking about the legless ones.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Mom, I'm the taupou for our group and I need to find things to wear" whaaattttt, why would you do that?

If I charged a dollar for every email/message/text I send to panicky/stressed/confused parents about preparing for a performance, I would be making enough money for... half a MENA or a quarter of a TAV skirt.

Obviously a lot of the messages start with wanting to borrow/buy/enquiry about making a tuiga.
Then, a fine mat, any fine mat.
Then, the questions start coming fast and furiously about:
-What should a taupou wear?
-Where can we get a nifo oti? and does she really need one?
-Who can weave us a fine mat?
- Can we have one of your tuigas but pay you nothing for it?
- Can we borrow one but can you drop it off?
-Why why why did my daughter/son have to go and get chosen???
- What else can we do?

So I thought, I'll explain it here and just cut and paste it from now on.

You have been chosen
Being chosen as the taupou (female) or manaia (male) is really great and exciting (cue, be proud of your child, pat on the back, not a ku'i). Being chosen generally means they are a great dancer (or the decision was rigged, lol).

What does it mean?
Your child will be performing the main dance, which is called the taualuga. Thankfully, I'm also a Goddess of Dance so let me say this, the taupou/manaia's ability to dance that taualuga can make or break the entire performance, (no pressure at all). Taualuga means ceiling, and refers to the last last part of the fale(house) that is built. As soon as you throw on the taualuga, the job is done. So the taualuga performance is considered the grand finale and will be performed by the dancer, however, the whole group will be involved in singing, aiuli'ing, fuakaimi, clapping etc.

What do you wear?
A female/male who dances the taualuga could wear either a:
1. Fine fine mat (ie samoa/soft) or if you can't get one, any will do. It's not the end of the world if you can't find an old one. Any fine mat will have to do.
2. You could also wear a siapo, tapa cloth that has mamanu designs on it.
3. The third one which not many people outside of Samoa do, (but is actually the cheapest, most authentic and more meaningful, is....making it out of leaves.
4. A modern version made of fabric.
5. The forth option is combining any of the 4 above.

What's the damage, money wise?
At the recent Polyfest, I just about wept at the amount of money some dancers' families had to spend. One had forked out over $3000 for the dancer's teuga, most of which were items bought from shops or from Samoa. I will reiterate this here, It doesn't have to be that way.
Aside from buying a tuiga from me which is a fraction of the cost elsewhere. hah
If you actually combine materials as I've mentioned above, then the cost doesn't have to be excessive.
Leaves. Are. Free.

What if I borrow people's stuff?
Perfect. That means you're not having to pay for everything yourself.
But, keep in mind that whatever you borrow, is precious to that family/person.
Treat everything with care. And most importantly, RETURN it right away.

Before lending my tuiga/nifo oti/ fine mat or whatever other items, what should I do?
From my experience, if there are 10 Samoans in a room and all borrowed something of the above, 6 will not return it until you chase them up, 1 will do a runner with it, 2 will return it late and damaged and if you're lucky, one will return it on time, undamaged.
Keep this complicated scientific formula in mind, because I'll be the first to say, "Told ya!"
Obviously I've been screwed over so many times I've now lost all sense of diplomacy.
My lessons learned are simply this:
  • I no longer encourage lending.
  • Just because someone is your family relation of friend, doesn't mean they'll look after it well.
  • Charge. And lay down the terms and conditions before lending.

While we're at it. please please taupous
Do not imitate a now well know ninja like fa'ataupati that shows up on youtube as part of your siva. That is comtemporary. Not siva samoa. Save it for your comtemporary performance in your room.

Is all this stress worth it?

When should I start planning
Two months ago. Not 2 days before the performance.

Advice for aspiring taupous/manaia
-Tell your family right away that you've been chosen.
-Use the opportunity to learn more about your culture, siva, let your family know what's up.
-Don't be a dramaqueen/king about all this, its expensive and stressful for your family, so don't be a dick.
-Enjoy the experience and be grateful and lastly, thank everyone who has helped you with your preparations.
-Email me if you want to order a fabulous tuiga or like my FB page, Tuiga by FotuoSamoa. (No last minute requests allowed thanks).

You're welcome,

Goddess of Taualuga and all things amazing.

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Your ancestors didn't sleep like you"

I recently read interesting research about the European's sleeping habits in the 18th century and it got me thinking about how our own ancestors slept.

I know that John Williams on his arrival to Samoa - particularly in Savaii referred to some of these 'habits' and it got me very very intrigued, enough to write a proposal about it for a thesis and then a sensible person who I look up to said, are you out of your $*&^%*&% mind? A thesis on sleep aint gonna get you nowhere. Which I find funny because I did it in something else and I'm still nowhere choohoo!

So how did our ancestors sleep?
Most slept on a mat. But not any mat. We had a distinct mat for sleeping, another for everyday tasks/walking on, we had mats for playing tau'lafoga (long mat that is rolled across and shells tossed across it, and then our different fine mats that the oldies used to carry in special embroidered cloths or placed carefully under kapok-filled matresses.

But back to the sleeping.

We slept on mats. And sometimes, on thick layers of mats if you were high rank.
We also had tapa cloth for cover, or ti leaves that are woven together
We did not have pillows, but we did have ali, which is a wooden frame that is used for your head to rest on.

Sleeping Pattern
Because of the tropical heat, our ancestors used to get up very early and make the most of the early morning coolness. Then when the sun beats down, they will rest or sleep  until the heat eases before continuing their work till dark.

Another thing we did in the past was to sleep inside a samoan fale which was covered with smooth rocks. There would have been a fire in the midst which is lit in the evening.

Our sleeping mats were always rolled up and then shoved above the posts until its time to go to sleep.

Fagogo before bedtime
One of the things I absolutely loved as a kid was lying down alongside my siblings and hearing a fagogo being told by my grandmother. I know many Samoans would be familiar with this. Highlight of my day when a fagogo was told. Totally beats any movie or electronic gadgets today.

Sleep Hazards, Moetolo
One of the things that is an absolute hazard of sleeping in Samoa are men who walk in their sleep and then attempt to have sexual intercourse with a woman in her sleep. Academic writing sometimes claim that this 'sleep walking' is sometimes 'condoned' by a woman. But I reckon that's absolute shet.
It's called rape. Sex without consent. Incest in many cases. That's our wonderful Samoa, let's not pretend everything is perfect in our sleep.

Other sleep hazards in Samoa
Our ancestors believed in different gods. There were gods of the land, rocks, animals, trees, breeze, and the most important god of all was Tagaloaalagi. We believed that some of these gods roams in the midst of the night and we still believe this in many villages.

Palagi observations
When palagis come to Samoa, they are bemused at the number of people that are asleep in the middle of the day. But they don't know that for many in the rural villages, their day has actually been full of activity such as going to the plantation, fishing, weaving, making food, etc.
But then of course, many have actually only gotten up to go buy food from the shop and are now sleeping and expanding everyday from have zero exercise in their routines.

What has changed?
Everything has changed.
Many Samoans now sleep in soft beds, bought from shop while some still sleep on mats. The ali (the wooden frame that you lie on) is still used by some oldies, but most now use pillows. Many still get up early to do work and then rest in the middle of the day.

What has not changed though, is that moetolo still roam, and young women, men and children are sexually violated in the homes while they sleep. Sometimes by someone they love and trust. In the dark of the night.

Think about it for a moment. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dressing up indigenous language in a fancy suit

I always find it intriquing when academia
Spends so much time interviewing indigenous people, measuring, photographing, focus-grouping, observing their 'otherness'
 and then,
They go away.
They wrap up the information, write it, package it, sell it, speak it, own it, critique it
  Pitch it in international conferences and use it eloquently to their advantage.
The indigenous person has given/empowered the researcher and accelerated their career,
The indigenous person on the other hand?
 Gains nada.
Just another 'other'
giver of ideas, thank you, goodbye.
 One day the indigenous person goes to school and is taught 'case studies' and learnings packaged in foreign terms...but, by then,
.......palagified and,  
Stripped of its original essence and mana.
However, when you take the time to peel pack the layers of convoluted terms and papa'a notions,
therein lies,
                                               . .  .    the indigenous perspective.

Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples

If you are indigenous and about to embark on your research, I encourage you to read Linda's work on decolonising research.

I had the pleasure of meeting Linda and going to Samoa with her a few years ago and I'm in awe of her work, perspective, calm presence. wow!

"For me and others, Universities really symbolize or represent Colonialism. Not only do they reside on our lands, but many of the founding principles of Universities, denied our existence. Many of the founding disciplines of universities, cut their teeth on our destruction. So why am I in the university? I think for many of us, the university is an ambivalent space that we believe has possibilities but are constantly disappointed when those possibilities do not amount to much. Or are quickly swept away with every paradigmatic tune that either governments or society has, or the university itself"

Thank you Tim for sharing!