Saturday, 30 July 2011

Faasamoa and Faalavelave

We all know that the very words 'faasamoa' and 'faalavelave' are signs to sigh, roll your eyes, hide your handbag, declare bankruptcy or all of the above. There are few certainties in life, but if you're Samoan, the only thing more certain then the fact that you've had to deal with faasamoa and faalavelave, is the fact that you've had a HUGE whinge about it! This is especially true if you belong to my (spoilt and entitled) generation, as opposed to my father's (stoic and suck-it-up) one.

But here's the thing about faasamoa and faalavelave. At the time of greatest grief, when you've lost a loved one, it gives people a way to show respect, love and family solidarity. It helps people come together. It allows you to not be consumed, to do something. All last week I saw how incredibly healing that is.

I have never been more grateful to have been brought up in the faasamoa. It's a blessing to understand what needs to done without being told. To feel helpful. To be able to actually help.

I was brought up in a close and loving aiga- my father's siblings are not only his family but his best friends (in fact my father has always been mystified as to why I insist on having friends outside of the family- so superfluous!) My aunties and uncles have always treated me like their own child, there has never been any differentiation, and my cousins have always felt like brothers and sisters to me. Still, I have never felt so supported and loved by my own aiga than when they came with their si'i to my partner's family- to acknowledge our relationship and (more importantly) my darling son.

We are so often presented with the hardship of faasamoa and faalavelave. It is widely discussed, blogged about, and even submitted on. As a former prosecutor in both Samoa and Australia, I have heard case after case where people have justified fraud and theft because of the burden of expectations of faasamoa and faalavelave. I don't deny (and nobody could) that faalavelave can be difficult. It actually literally means "problem". But that 'problem' has a positive side. And just sometimes (especially in times of hardship and grief) it's really nice to take a minute...and dwell on the positive.


Lani Wendt Young said...

Thank you for the reminder. I very much belong to the spoilt generation and now there are times when my Dad tells me/asks me for my contribution to something and i say" But Dad you didnt raise us that way, why are you asking me for stuff now?" (Bad daughter alert).
I believe in the essential origins of the 'fa'alavelave - people coming together to help each other during times of grief and strife and loss. It is meant to be a way we can express love and find comfort in each other and whn Im not complaining about the excesses that we see nowadays, I too am grateful to be Samoan. Beautiful blog post.

Teine Samoa said...

Thanks Lani, I think Albert Wendt's ' Pouliuli' captures it poignantly and perfectly- A matai struggling with all the responsibilities of faasamoa decides to fake madness. Then realises that in shedding the responsibilities he has lost his identity. I love that book and it had a huge impact on me- reading it helped clarify and define me to myself. Our responsibilities, in the faasamoa, as a daughter and sister, as a partner and a (new) mum make me what I am no matter how hard they are. This however will not prevent me from having the occasional rant about it all. It's necessary for my sanity :-)

ulalei said...

Oh wow! I love love love this post. It captures what I love about faasamoa/faalavelave - the family, the support and love that surrounds you. Having experienced that firsthand with my dad's passing... I am forever grateful for that "essence" but yep, it don't mean I won't complain... especially when it's "lafo mai se kupe ua oki le sister a le cousin a le uncle a le uso a pai ma lafai" :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ulalei. I do not think these things (loving faasamoa, but then complaining about it) are in any way incongruous!!! TS