|Me doing the coconut demonstration - PCC|
How is it possible to become "more Samoan" outside of Samoa? Some will find the assertion more philosophical and theoretical than practical. Others may approach it from a relative standpoint with justification, if not rationalization. But I see it from a purely practical and empirical perspective especially in the context of Samoa’s social and ethnocultural traditions.
In Hawaii at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), I demonstrated many of the tasks found in Samoan everyday life. The three main ones were: climbing the coconut tree, starting fire using just two pieces of sticks and husking the coconut, cracking it open and extracting milk from its meat (kernel). Not only had I actually done these chores, but the frequency - several times a day - went well beyond the normal native daily occurrences. In Samoa, I would climb the coconut tree perhaps only twice a month, if at all. And I was never able or had to start a fire without using matches or a lighter. Only in the woods where occasionally some older men would start the fire using the native sticks method as a last resort. At the Cultural Center, starting a fire by rubbing sticks only took me 20-30 seconds; the demonstration is then repeated for every group of tourists/guests.
During special celebrations and culture days, I had a chance to tautu (distribute) ‘ava (ceremonial drink) to guests and VIPs using proper traditional etiquette (re: picture below). I had not - and would have not - had a chance to do that in Samoa.
I was also introduced to some rare and special cultural protocols - often reserved for special occasions - at the PCC. For example, I participated in an “'ava faatupu” (kava ceremony to welcome a king) when the late Malietoa Tanumafili II visited the Center. Ta'alolo (a procession of gift presentation), a traditional Samoan custom was common during my years at PCC.
|If one has not been to the PCC, he will think this picture is of Samoa|
So the claim and argument that the Polynesian Cultural Center is a staged exhibition is hogwash. I learned more about Samoa there - in Hawaii - than I was ever able to learn in Samoa. In fact I felt more “proud” of the Samoan culture in Hawaii than I would have felt in Samoa.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a special and unique place. It is a living museum!