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. 

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