For the past month the students at my school have been preparing for Culture Day, a competition and all day celebration of Samoan culture. The school is split into four houses: red, yellow, blue, and green. Each of these houses has students from each year (year 9 – year 13) and is assigned a few of the teachers. My house was the red house.
Everyone had a specific uniform for the day. House leaders went to Apia and chose a fabric design in the house color. Each student needed to purchase some of this material and have an i’e (for boys) or a puletasi (for girls) made. We teachers had our own design in brown. The female teachers all had puletasi and the males had traditional shirts made and wore plain brown i’e faitaga with them. After I got my fabric, my host mother sewed my puletasi for me.
The parents and the school committee all come to watch the performances. The school committee (all Matai) was served both breakfast and lunch. The food was excellent and since the teachers spent most of the day behind the scenes, we got to eat the leftovers.
There were numerous portions of the competition:
The groups had to perform a ceremonial fa’alavelave. This type of ceremony is used during large events such as funerals, weddings, and births. One family will come before the family hosting the event and there is an exchange of gifts. The houses took it in turns so that each house paid respect once and received respect once.
Two representatives from each house came forward and had to weave a mat from palm leaves. They were judged on their technique.
Each house had to prepare a traditional Samoan meal. They were each given an area on the school property to build their umu (traditional cooking pit built with stones) and cook their food. They made chicken, soups, pigs, palusami, and taro.
Each house chose a different Samoan legend and had to act it out. They made props (my house made a small mountain out of leaves and branches) and costumes. They told the stories through song, dance, and dialogue. The Green house had an excellently staged fight and the Yellow house actually used fire.
The Red house told the story of Vaia. This is the story, as it was translated to me:
Vaia fell in love with a beautiful woman who had four brothers. When she became pregnant the brothers wanted to bring her home for the birth. Vaia said he would wait for her and stood stoically on a hill long after her brothers had taken her away in their canoe. Once the child was born, the four brothers devoured it, leaving only the head for the woman to take back to Vaia. Distraught, she returned but Vaia had waited so long he had turned into a mountain. The woman’s tears became the river that runs along side the mountain.
The last part of the competition was the dances. Each house had a Sasa, a Taupo, and a normal Siva. Some of the boys serve as drummers and all the students sing. One of the girls from each house serves as the leader. She gets her own costume and is adorned with beads and colorful feathers. She introduces her house, explains the legend, and acts almost like a conducter, keeping the beat and directing the singing
The Sasa is a dance done while sitting down. Most of the moves used pantomime daily activities: rowing a canoe, collecting coconuts, weaving a mat, etc.
The Taupo (word for princess) is a traditional dance that was done by the village princess. Each house chose about four students to be their Taupo, they are dressed traditionally and dance in the front of the group while village boys dance in a half circle behind them. The boys are never to touch the Taupo.
The normal Siva (word for dance) is the regular Samoan dance (conducted while standing).
The winners of Culture Day 2007: Yellow House. Talofai Red House (means That’s too bad Red House