This Independence Day we went to a stadium to view all of the village performances. The group of men and women in this picture is comprised of all prisoners from Apia and at the end of the dancing and singing a large (we're talking 20 feet by 30 feet) fine woven mat is brought out and placed over several prisoners. This is a ritual that was performed historically by an individual when he had committed a crime against someone in the village. The individual would go to the center of the village and cover himself in a woven mat in the midday sun. The person would voluntarily stay under the mat either until death by heat stroke or until he was forgiven and the mat was removed by the person who was wronged. Once the mat is removed, the person is forgiven and the village accepts them back. This was performed ceremoniously by several of the prisoners and a government official removed the mat. We're not sure if the people under the mat were paroled or not, but it was a very emotional ceremony. The hugs and heartfelt gratitude by family and friends that followed the removal of the mat was really a touching moment.
After this group, there were several village groups that presented. The program went for several hours and at the end, the Prime Minister was presented with six very, very large pigs that were brought out on bamboo mats covered with mats (yes, they were dead) . We had a training to do across the island so we had to leave before our Pesega students presented. However, we can tell you that there were 600 students who danced and sang. We have a video we'll show when we come home.
Many other large mats were brought out, displayed briefly and then presented to the prim minister and wife.
Our parades and celebrations are great, but it's pretty impressive when each village has several hundred people singing and dancing all in costume for Independence Day in Samoa. America, maybe we need to step it up a notch. (or maybe not, I don't know how to weave a fine mat or kill a pig.)