Villages adapt to life in lockdown

Villages across Samoa have begun to change and adapt their approach to traditional ceremonies, including funerals, in response to the coronavirus-inspired state of emergency. 

Leaders at Malie, Tanugamanono and Manono Island have told the Samoa Observer of how the global pandemic has changed the way of life in their village. 

The mayor of Malie, Faamausili Auimatagi Siona Taufii, said the greatest impact on Malie’s rituals had been on the nature of funerals.

“We’ve banned church choirs [...] in funerals to combat the virus and it’s all about the safety of everyone,” he said.

There have been five funerals in Malie since the lockdown was declared. 

Each has been handled according to restrictions, the Village Mayor said. 

He said the village Council understands the importance of funeral traditions but that some customs needed to change in order to comply with the state of emergency. 

Families have been understandable and cooperative, Faamausili said. 

“We’re following the rules and regulations given by the Ministry of Women and I think the families understand well the results of such matters” he said.

The village’s church services and usual Monday Council meetings have also been stopped in response to a state of emergency ban on public gatherings. 

Faamausili said the village council is enforcing rules and regulations from door to door.

“We’ve also been to the church ministers to remind them of the [state of emergency] orders and we’ve discussed and monitored a limit of five people in a church [at a time],” he added.

On Manono Island, traditions remain strong but they have made preparations for them to be amended, particularly for funerals and public gatherings. 

“I can safely say that the council hasn’t approached a family yet with regards to public gatherings but I know that the village has set aside some rules in handling such matters,” a chief in the village, Seumaalii Magia, told the Samoa Observer

Matters are slightly different at Tanugamanono.

The village’s Mayor, Siligatusa Paipai Fatialofa, said the village was entrusting compliance to individual families but regulating church services. 

“We’re not changing how we handle funerals especially since we haven’t had any funerals so far and other public gatherings as we’re leaving it to the families and of course the Police officers to do their job,” he said.

But for Sunday services, churchgoers are making use of social media, streaming services across social media for members of the congregation to observe from home.

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