As we celebrate Mother’s Day in honor of the Samoan woman, I personally would like to take this opportunity to reflect on how she has impacted our lives as indigenous tagata Samoa in light of the ongoing debate about her rightful place in society given the rapidly shifting social values in the present condition of our humanity.
In my own biased, romancetised personal view, the Samoan woman is most beautiful in her traditional Samoan puletasi in the customary company of her red hibiscus flower (sei) on her ear, whether it’s on the right or left, it does not matter. It is this outfit (laei) that normally brings out the best in her character in the forms of grace, beauty and dignity (mamalu) in the manner in which she speaks and conducts herself.
If it sounds like I’m dreaming, I will not blame you at all. Why?
One might ask. As indigenous people, we are failing her. No, it’s not the Samoan culture that’s failing her, it’s us, tagata Samoa. One might say, “Aisea? E sui a faiga ae le suia le Faavae ia tatou tu ma aganuu.” No, the present condition of our humanity indicates the Faavae (foundation) is sinking into the ground of European conceived ideas in our indigenous universe.
And with its enormous metaphorical weight, it’s taking us down with it. Why? One might ask. We, as tagata Samoa, have turned away from Divine Spirituality in our ancestral God of Tagaloa-a-lagi.
In Divine Spirituality, our ancestors respect and recognise a harmonious relationship with Nature and the Cosmology. They won’t cut a tree down without a prayer. They respect every form of life on earth, some even honor the fish as a diety. Politically, we place considerable value in our own form of organised government in territorial states of Nu’u ma Itumalo.
Our indigenous worldview of the woman symbolised Heaven; she is the source of family lineage (gafa) and a carrier of human life; and also a family Sa’o in her own right.
In contrast, the European conceived ideas of commerce, state and church view the Samoan as a piece of property. According to the Book of God, she is a “crime,” a “piece of property” and she is descendant from a piece of bone on the weak side the man. She came from the man. The Samoan woman is therefore being blamed for everything that is wrong in society, simply because she ate a fruit, what kind of fruit, I don’t know.
Since the introduction of Christianity, we have been told the Book of God is the best if not the only source of wisdom. As indigenous people, the humanity in us view this source of information factually, historically and literally. I know because I was told in Sunday school that, “ O Atamu ma Eva ‘o o tatou ulua’i matua ia.”
As such, these lies have led to serious misconceptions of the Samoan woman. They are the root cause of much of the abuses, mistreatment and moral degradation of women not only in Samoa but every Western society celebrating Mother’s Day today.
Furthermore, I remember as young kids growing up in Toamua, one of our favorite songs entitled, “Le fafine o Eva ua malaia ai o le lalolagi.” So tempting that even some faifeau tausinu’u have failed in their God given wisdom over the woman’s lusting natural beauty.
For our ancestors and ourselves, our source of wisdom is our stories or mythology, proverbs and allegories. In our stories of Discovery and Creation according to Gatoloaifaana Peseta Sio in his book, “Compass of Sailing in Storm,” Papatea and Pulotu had discovered and settled Manu’a and the Samoan islands.
Pulotu’s two girls, Lagi and Lagi then parted company. One settled on Earth the other in Heaven. In the Creation story by our Manu’a ancestors Immensity and Space brought forth Lagi. Lagi then brought forth nine other siblings all named Lagi. Hence the metaphorical idea brought forth in the story is the Samoan woman as Heaven and also the giver of live.
The woman is also a source of dignity and family lineage (gafa). This place of the woman in Samoan society reflects in the proverb. “O paolo ma gafa e malu (as in mamalu) ai Aiga.” Paolo are non heirs married into the family as faiava and nofotane whereas gafa refers to non resident heirs who reside elsewhere in the islands.
In the twilight of her life, the woman is with dignity often referred to in heavenly honorifics, “Ua pulapula la goto le soifua.” She is likened to our most ancient ancestral God, Ra, our source of energy. She is cared for, fed at home and surrounded by loved ones until she is called home.
Unfortunately, as a direct result of European conceived ideas and the miseducation of indigenous minds, the indigenous Samoan woman is often relegated to an institutional care facility of the church. Thus she is corrupted in becoming a money making piece of property of the church, state and their young sibling-commerce.