Sometimes in Samoa, more is spent on the dead than the living.
Take funerals for example. They are occasions to behold.
For Lotolelei Lautafi Tulaga, from the village of Puipa’a, she says spending more money on funerals and less on taking care of living family members make it seem as if we honour the dead more than the living.
Aged 66, Lotolelei says that living this way makes life very tough.
“To be very honest with you, I think that parts of our culture are making people’s lives very tough,” she told the Village Voice.
“When we have family gatherings (fa’alavelave) for funerals or weddings, it always costs way too much and there are many families who are already struggling.
“We have some families without a single person working and we have people with only one breadwinner.”
Lotolelei says that the pressure to spend extravagantly on any fa’alavelave is causing many problems within different families.
“Many people feel pressured into putting a whole lot of money into the family fa’alavelave,” she said.
“It seems as though we are expected to prioritize these cultural practices over taking care of our own families. With this continuing on, it only makes the struggling families struggle a whole lot more.
“When it comes to funerals, I think it’s better if we start putting aside some of the expenses for the fa’alavelave so that we can have a little more money to take care of our families.”
So basically, people are expected to take care of their family with a lot less money and not being able to generate a lot of income does not make you exempt.
“To put it simply, when it comes to a fa’alavelave, a family is pressured into spending thousands and just a little bit of money goes to feeding the children,” Lotolelei said.
“Not only do parents need to feed their children, they also have to put them through school and take care of the rest of the family; but when someone dies, their funeral is seen as a priority.
“I don’t think people should be pressured into doing something they can’t afford to do.”
Lotolelei says that this is a good time to go back to how things were in the past.
“I feel that we should go back to the way things were before,” she said.
“Nowadays, we take our dead to the morgue to await the build up to the funeral. Back then, someone would die during the night and the funeral was the next day.
“And whatever you had that day will be enough to cover the funeral, even if it was just some tea and biscuits for the visiting families; it was enough.
“But nowadays we have to buy all sorts of things to make the funeral extravagant. We need to cut off some parts of our culture to help all the families of Samoa.”
Taking us away from cultural gatherings, when asked how her family makes a living, Lotolelei says that she runs a small coconut business.
“My family makes a living from our coconut business,” she said.
“We gather 100 coconuts from the church’s land for $30 and then we sell them at 50cents each. That leaves us with $20 profit and we continue that over and over again.
“We also have some coconut trees on our land so whatever coconuts we have will be added to the pile. It really helps out my family.”