June 2014 Volume 11

Fortis Farewell from the Land of Your Breadfruit Ancestors – Part II Wedding

Michael O. Walters
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As you can see from the photograph with fellow 68er Glen Laman at the Tampa Purple Session, I have left American Samoa after some 20 months, and am back in Florida.  As I said in Part I published in the March 2014 edition, I have always heard that if you want to know about any culture, you should attend a funeral and a wedding.  Luckily, I was able to attend both within a short period of time.  Part II herewith describes the wedding but the photographs are limited since a wedding is rather private.  Much of the wedding is similar to weddings we are accustomed to in Jamaica and the USA, so I will focus on the differences.

The first part of the wedding was held in a church (Church_photo) and had the typical fanfare of bridal party (BrideP_photo), groomsmen (GroomM_photo), bride marching up the isle with her father who gave her away to the waiting groom at the altar, “Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife” etc. (BrideA_Photo).  The first major difference I noted, came after the wedding service.

After the newly wedded couple left the church we were ushered outside and seated at tables under a large tent (Tent_photo) where we were served food and drinks.  Shortly after, gift giving quite similar to the proceedings at the funeral started.  Fine mats (Mats_photo), a whole roasted pig (Pig_photo) and other things were transported by runners (Runner_photo) from a nearby building to someone who received the gifts on behalf of the bride and her family.  In true Samoan style, after the gifts were received, the re-gifting began.  It follows the premise that if you give me, something I must give you something back.  It was time for someone to give back gifts to the people who had just given gifts.   That part of the proceedings lasted for approximately two hours then it was off to the reception, a 30-minute drive away. 

Again, much of it was the typical celebrations we know of, the arrival of the wedding party, lots of food, toasting the couple, bride dancing with her father, cutting of the cake etc.  The difference though was in the lone dancing of the bride.  As she did a special Samoan dance (Bride_dancing_photo), guests would toss money for the couple unto the floor.  The money was retrieved by attendants and this went on for hours, with very little break in between the dances as prompted by the live music.   I was very concerned that the bride would be getting tired. But then the big surprise for me.  Half way through one of the dances two of her attendants lifted her wedding dress to reveal her tattooed legs (Tatoo_photo), a Samoan tradition.  No wedding garter here but the authentic Samoan tattoo must be shown.

Well fellow Fortisians, friends and family, I am happy to have spent 20 months in American Samoa in the South Pacific, and I hope you learnt and enjoyed the seven articles in KC Times (Sep 2012, Nov 2012, May 2013, Jul 2013, Nov 2013, Jan 2014, Mar 2014) describing my experience in American Samoa.  It certainly has changed my outlook and I fell in love with the Samoan people.  The Tutuila Island being 80 times smaller than Jamaica, and the fact that I looked different from the natives, I was always recognized and was greeted in a very friendly way by all, even the children would ask me to take their photos.   Having grown up in Jamaica, I thought that breadfruit in Jamaica was all that there was, and was taken aback to find that there are over a hundred different varieties with different shapes, leaves, and fruits, and some even had seeds.   The Samoan people welcomed me with open arms, and quite willing shared their history and culture with me including the feared Aitu.       

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