More or less 200 families graced a showcase of culture by Hong Kong’s Samoan community at Bula Land last Easter. Showcasing the Fa’asamoa way of life, its aim to share its culture while leaving its guests with a beautiful message of conserving and using natural resources is perfect for pondering on this Earth Day.
This weekend marks a special day dedicated to Earth, our home. Since the efforts began in the 1970s to address environmental issues that grew like a hydra having many heads, it’s great to be part of a fastly growing movement. In their own way, the HK Samoan community enlightened many families here in Hong Kong on how natural resources are utilized to their maximum. In line with celebrating their rich culture, they encouraged the hailing simplicity of life to see how abundantly we are blessed.
As the day began as early as 10 am, guests arrived with one aim, to experience something unique. Following the 3-year hibernation of Hong Kong due to COVID restrictions, families are looking for outdoor activities to celebrate togetherness and freedom from masks over free time. And so, with Earth Day, Easter and a long weekend for families to enjoy, Bula Land, collaborated with the HK Samoan community to bring something like no other to Shau Tau Kok.
Samoa, the heart of Polynesia, lies a little bit south of the equator. It’s a tropical paradise known for delicacies cooked in coconut milk, its traditional way of life and siva afi or fire-knife dancing. Visitors to this beautiful country would have to fly 8,969km from Hong Kong through Fiji or New Zealand and emit around 5 tonnes of carbon print each. But Samoa came over for a day and shared the following:
SHOWING THE USES OF THE COCONUT
One of the many abundant resources humans have is the coconut. This fruit alone has a lot of uses that’s why it’s called the Tree of Life. Emphasizing how it can nourish, Hogan Toomalatai, demonstrated cracking a coconut using a machete. After this brief demonstration, families get to practice on their own. Volunteers drank its fresh juice and tasted its meat. He showed a special mark between the eyes of the fruit where a line lies that hitting it right would bring it to quench one’s thirst instantly.
Undeniably, this takes a lot of practice. Being born in Samoa and growing up in the islands equipped the chief with survival skills such as making fire. The husk where the very fruit was detached from was put aside to be used. Families were given the tools to practice which they enjoyed doing together.
“This activity really made my family work together in a unique way,” one parent commented. For the rest of the morning, coconuts were available for guests to practice husking while the program continued on with the most favourite of all – eating time!
But, you see, since it’s not that easy. The guest experience heightened even more as they actually participated in grating the coconut. As they squeezed off milk from it to use as an ingredient in cooking, they prepare the umu.
Samoan delicacies use a lot of coconut milk.
Usual delicacies include roasted pork and luau. You would also hear cocoa Samoa, taro, green banana in coconut milk and panipopo and ilegi when around Samoans. What a great way to promote Earth Day as there’s nothing more organic in preparing one’s food than this.
To learn more about the umu preparation, watch this for further enlightenment.
The Ava Ceremony precedes every important Samoan event and occasion. It marks the beginning of an important celebration as the Fa’asamoan way of welcoming guests and honouring them. The taupou is one that mixes the Ava drink that gets distributed to significant elders, VIP guests of an event and the celebrants in weddings or formal occasions such as the bestowal of chiefly titles.
It was in 2021 when the taupou, Phoenix Seileafi Brave Dalino Toomalatai, daughter to the high chief (Masoe Hogan Toomalatai), started representing her culture. She understood how big of a representation her role holds as the hostess of such a celebration at 6. She marks the sacred preparation involved in these significant occasions and usually wraps it up in the end with a significant Taualuga dance.
The guests got to enjoy a taste of it afterwards and some commented about its taste is bitter. As it is basically a root, a unique taste certainly lingers and leaves an experience like no other in terms of its relaxing effect.
Along with the traditional dances, siva afi or the fire-knife dance is something that makes this culture all the more interesting. As a way to protect their land during ancient times, the art of fire-knife dancing had become more of a cultural representation of its people staying united and true to their culture. It also emerged as a sport to gauge the strength, and agility of a warrior, featuring swift movements, bravery to dance with fire and a literal knife with a hook at the end called ailao or the Samoan warclub.
Earlier that day, the event involved the kids in an experience of the Samoan traditional dance by teaching them simple movements. At the end of the day, they get to watch Samoans dance while enjoying camaraderie and co-existence to the beat of the drums.
“Being a high chief back home gives me an understanding of how important co-existence is. Every culture deserves respect. We need not only acknowledge but also to be recognised of their existence and what they hold important to them. Also, we should, no matter how little, preserve our planet by hailing the usage of natural resources. Understanding how to maximize it could help in reducing rubbish that had become unstoppable. Also, one person could make a huge difference. I encourage us all to work together to save the earth.”, High Chief Masoe Hogan Toomalatai shares. His birthday falls on earth day.