Fading culture

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Joycemarielila Toafa

There was once a flourishing island, surrounded by the beautiful sea with hovering mountains protecting its rich brown soil.

Palm trees, sun-kissed white beaches with colourful flowers outlining the paths to different locations. It was a land layered with culture and traditions, its people lived by respect and courtesy while their routines held an endless chord of responsibilities.

Christianity governed its citizens while love, giving and kindness sealed individuals as whole. Thunder strikes, western culture crawls in like the evening approaching the blazing sun and the once raging fire starts to fade like ice engaged with heat.

The embers that led the natives out of darkness flinches encountering the sparkly lights, the islanders notice the ancestors slowly leaving however white men on chairs seemed like a mythical kind of lifestyle.  

Walking down the basic framework of modern Samoa, I was greeted by age-old customs, mixed with Christian values and rules that gave out a sense of belonging.  Kids running, women laughing and men chatting coupled with the friendly smiles instantly captured my heart.

The air was filled with happiness while the breeze carried a welcoming aura. Invited in one of the oval-shaped houses made from natural materials- notably wood and leaves I saw parents sitting, girls fanning their meals whereas the boys ran from place to place serving like it was a drawn purpose in life.

An invisible hierarchy stood at the centre of this “faleoo” as individuals were expected to act upon their ages, sex, rank and status. Obedience and quiet subservience hung as desirable qualities while pride and disobedience stood by the door like exiles.   

A father’s blessings kept his son on his feet whilst a simple thank you from the parents pleased the ears of the youngsters. Serving the elders gave a sense of uniqueness while blessings gave a child confidence to a life full of prosperity. 

A simple “faamolemole” granted anyone whatever they wanted; a mere “faafetai” was enough payment for any amount of debts that was scripted. 

A seat is offered to any elder on the bus, a helping hand was lent without questions asked while a mumbled “tulou” entertained the ears of a seated crowd.  

Captivated by the luxuriant “faaaloalo” that led the everyday lives of the community I continued to stroll through the neighbourhood however a melody brought me to halt. 

It was a splendid sound that wrapped the culture, responsibilities and the Samoan ways of living together. 

The songs spoke of the myths and legends that were verbally passed by our ancestors’ generation after generation. 

Advancing towards the door that grasped the rich melody, I saw the young women in the community swaying to the beat like the waves of the oceans and the leaves of the trees dancing to the breeze. Their actions spoke of their responsibilities, the many aspects of culture and the richness of nature that surrounded the island.

Turning from that house I was brought back to reality, where everything was reformed and different. It was the same neighbourhood, located in the same island however; there was something different about the community. 

The oval-houses that I admired were no longer there instead the neighbourhood consisted of houses that were carved out of man-made resources. 

The atmosphere that once gave a sense of belonging was no longer welcoming. An elder jumped on the bus; the teenagers sat there chatting away with their friends, a mother called for her daughter; she sat there typing away on her phone. 

No longer was the attitude of giving but rather the character of earning, long gone was the quiet subservience but was now replaced with an infinite list of complains. The melodies that once spoke of culture and traditions were replaced with songs about breakups and heartaches. 

Everything that I once admired was nowhere to be seen, the old scenes that captured my heart was a faint picture in the darkness.  

And just like a photograph in the rain, I drew out a conclusion - our culture is slowly fading.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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