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Samoan male warrior c. 1896

The traditional culture of Samoa is a communal way of life based on Fa'a Samoa, the unique socio-political culture of Samoa. In Samoan culture, most activities are done together. There are 3 main parts in the Samoan culture, that is faith, family and music.The traditional living quarters, or fales (houses), contain no walls and up to 20 people may sleep on the ground in the same fale. During the day, the fale is used for chatting and relaxing. One's family is viewed as an integral part of a person's life. The aiga or extended family lives and works together. Elders in the family are greatly respected and hold the highest status, and this may be seen at a traditional Sunday umu (underground oven.)



In American Samoa, most people are bilingual; they speak both Samoan and English. In Samoa, most people speak Samoan, although the inhabitants of Swains Island speak Tokelauan.


Boy performing a Samoa fire dance (siva afi).

The traditional Samoan dance is the siva. The female siva with gentle movements of the hands and feet in time to music. The sasa is a group dance performed sitting to a drum rhythm. Samoan males traditionally perform the fa'ataupati (slap dance), usually performed in a group with no music accompaniment. Other types of dance are modern dance by the younger generations. Traditional Samoan dance is arguably the one area of Samoan culture that has not been touched by Western Civilization. The maulu'ulu is a group dance performed by female counterparts only, also the taualuga is the main Samoan traditional dance that is performed by a village prince (manaia) or village princess (taupou). It is often performed at weddings, birthdays and other samoan celebrations. [1]

Traditional artforms

Construction of a Samoan fale c. 1896 Architecture of Samoa
Pe'a, traditional male tattoo.

Samoan handicrafts can be found at the craft market and some shops. These include the siapo (equivalent to the Fijian tapa cloth) which is made from beaten mulberry bark, and then patterns or pictures are painted on with a natural brown dye. These pictures typically depict fish, turtles, and hibiscus flowers. The siapo may be used for clothing, for wrapping objects and even simply for decorative reasons. Kava bowls are sturdy, round wooden bowls made of varying sizes, and have many short legs around it. Kava is made up with water in the bowl and drunk socially using coconut shells to scoop up the drink. It is a ground natural extract from the root of Piper methysticum, (a relative of the pepper plant) and is used for medicinal and slightly anaesthetic properties. Other handicrafts are fine mats, ornaments or jewellery and hair accessories using naturally occurring materials such as sea shells, coconut and coir.

Traditional Samoan medicine is often practiced as a first-line before hospital medicine. This is a type of alternative medicine using plant leaves to massage the affected area.


The traditional ladies clothing is the puletasi which is a matching skirt and tunic with Samoan designs. The lava lava is a sarong which may be worn by men or women. They are of different patterns and colors, but tend to be plain for men who may wear it as part of an official uniform. Some men have intricate and geometrical patterns tattooed onto their lower body and upper legs. The tattooing process is performed without any anaesthesia and is said to be painful.


Church in Matavai village, Savai'i

Samoa is a deeply religious Christian country. Christianity, in particular Protestant Christianity has exerted a powerful influence on Samoan life since missionaries from the London Missionary Society brought over by John Williams from Tahiti, began evangelising there in the early 1830s (among them was Reverend George Pratt, who also wrote the first Samoan grammar). There are many churches to be found around the islands and church attendance is high.


The main sports played in Samoa are rugby union and Samoan cricket (kirikiti). About 30 ethnic Samoans, many from American Samoa, currently play in the National Football League. A 2002 article from ESPN estimated that a Samoan male (either an American Samoan, or a Samoan living in the 50 United States) is 40 times more likely to play in the NFL than a non-Samoan American.[citation needed] A number have also ventured into professional wrestling.

Rugby union is very popular in Samoa and the national team is consistently competitive against teams from vastly more populous nations. Samoa have competed at every Rugby World Cup since 1991, and have made the quarter finals in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Samoa also play in the Pacific Nations Cup . The sport is governed by the Samoa Rugby Football Union, who are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance, and thus, also contribute to the international Pacific Islanders rugby union team. At club level there is the National Provincial Championship and Pacific Rugby Cup Prominent Samoan players include Douglas Faaee, Pat Lam and Brian Lima. In addition, there are many Samoans that have played for or are playing for the All Blacks.

Rugby league is also popular amongst Samoans, with Samoa reaching the quarter finals of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. Australian rules football, played as Samoa Rules is also growing in Samoa with the national team, the Bulldogs, competing at the Arafura Games and the 2002 and 2005 Australian Football International Cups.

Samoans have been very visible in American professional wrestling, despite the relatively small population of the islands. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Peter Maivia, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Yokozuna, Umaga/Jamal, Manu, Rosey, Samoa Joe, Wild Samoans, The Headshrinkers, Rikishi, and Sonny Siaki all have a Samoan heritage.


Sports in American Samoa

Sports in American Samoa is infllunced by American culture and American football and its league, NFL are popular. For the Independent State of Samoa, New Zealand and British influences has led to the popularity of rugby union, netball and volleyball.


The most salient and perhaps the most prominent part of Samoan culture at formal events is the process of Fa'aaloaloga (formal presentation of gifts). At weddings, chiefly installations (sa'ofaiga), funerals, opening of houses / churches, or any other public gathering of Samoans, Fa'aaloaloga will always be performed.

Ever since the formalisation of Christianity in Samoa and the inclusion of the Christian 'taeao' or 'mornings' into the general recitation of 'mornings' in Samoan speeches, the set protocol has been that that the first presentations are always presented to the religious representatives present at the event. This is followed by the highest ranking chiefs by order of rank.

A standard set of presentation is called the 'sua'. This is usually made up of vailolo (drink with money in it; originally it was a coconut and a coconut frond (tuaniu)), amoamosa (tray of biscuits and material or a combination of other small foodstuffs like a can of cornbeef), and a suatalisua (a box of cornbeef or chicken or similar). This is followed by a fine mat or several fine mats (mats of state - ie o le malo), which could vary from 5m long to 25-30m long and 10m high). Depending on the occasion and the rank of the person, each of those elements above could be magnified several times by the addition of numbers, and could also include a huge tapa cloth being tied to the young lady presenting the vailolo or draped several metres behind her as she presents it.

Samoan Cuisine

Samoan umu, an oven of hot rocks above ground

Sundays are traditionally a day of rest, and many families congregate to share an umu together for a Sunday afternoon meal. In a traditional household, the older members of the family will sit and eat first, and as the meal continues the younger members and then children are invited to eat. The umu contains an abundance and variety of dishes ranging from fresh seaweed and crayfish to baked taro and rice. Coconut appears in many Samoan dishes, for example palusami, a parcel of coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves baked in the umu. This is eaten in its entirety including the leaves, and is rich in taste due to its coconut content.

See also



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