Leisure Recreation and the Arts

The most salient entertainment in pre-Christian Samoa was the Poula (Joking Night) and was led by women, although males also played significant roles. Joking Nights followed major ceremonies (which were occasions of travel to other villages) such as welcoming ceremonies, investitures, marriages of rank, births of ranking children, first birthdays of ranking children, deaths of ranking persons, pigeon-hunting expeditions, and spirits' feast days. Joking Nights had two parts: a dignified first segment, concluded by a chiefly dance, and a ruckus second segment, characterized by ribald joking. Joking skits were part of the second segment. After missioniza-tion, the dignified dancing of the first half became the model of all dancing. A chiefly dance (the taualuga) came to be considered the taupou's special dance, and later to be the prototype of girls' dancing generally. By the mid-20th century, males had taken over young women's roles as leading comedians, most importantly in Ghost House, a comedy theater named after the house in which Joking Nights had taken place. Older women remained skilled comics and performed in many contexts.

Women specialized in tapa making and weaving fine mats. Men might specialize in house building or tattooing. Samoans have long been the tattooing experts of the region. When missionaries and cultural erosion had extinguished tattooing in much of the Pacific, other Polynesians would journey to get tattooed or to learn this art from Samoan experts. The male tattoo extends from midriff down to and covering the knees; early explorers compared it to silk trousers. Although a matter of choice, getting a tattoo was an initiation ritual for young men and was a prerequisite for males to serve chiefs in ceremony. The tattoo for women was purely decorative and included lacy designs on the thighs only. Both men and women still get tattoos today for decorative reasons and to show their loyalty to traditional Samoan culture.

In old Samoa, the chiefly sport was pigeon catching, carried out with decoy birds. Pigeons would be caught, leashed around the leg, and trained. Trained birds, secured by a long string, were released. They flew around a pigeon-catching mound as if circling food or water, attracting wild birds to the area, which were captured by chiefs hidden in blinds below. Today Samoans put on dances, beauty contests, entertainment competitions, and culture days in which they perform crafts and dances. Samoans also participate in a number of sports—from longboat racing to canoeing to cricket to football. Longboat racing and football are male sports, although formerly women rowed a half-longboat called a tulula. Women as well as men canoe and play cricket. When women score, they often perform choreographic jokes led by a male transvestite.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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