Living in the U.S, there are few inhabited areas more alien to the average American than Oceania. These remote islands, separated from a majority of the world, are all incredibly unique and contain people and cultures just as rich as their landscapes. If you attended the Intercultural Communication class’s “World Tour” on campus this April, you may have discovered one of these fascinating places. The class explored various cultures from American gangs to islands far and near. Khari Graves, a senior presenting at the event, took the audience on a voyage to The Independent State of Samoa, better known simply as Samoa.
“We had to choose a culture we weren’t too familiar with.” said Graves, “A lot of things that relate to gender and Samoan’s are really interesting to me.”
Samoa is an Oceania country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962, but what’s so interesting about Samoa? Graves’ posters explained that Samoans are Polynesian, meaning they share very similar cultural traits, language, and beliefs as the other inhabitants of the area, like the Maori or Hawaiians.
“While universal appreciation of things like elders and family can be seen amongst all of these groups, the culture and customs of Samoa are unique,” said Graves. All of the students created presentations to showcase their work including a lengthy paper. “The paper which is very long necessitates you to really dive into the culture,” Graves said, “you have to learn a lot about it to pull that off.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the culture Graves finds interesting is family system. Unlike families in the U.S and other countries, Samoans concept of family is more closely related to the concept of family in Asian and African cultures, which means they are much larger that families we typically think of and have. While many westerners maintain an idea of a nuclear family, or parents and children, Samoans believe in the concept of aiga or extended family. A Samoan aiga, typically includes grandparents, aunts, parent, uncles, nieces, cousins, couples, and sometimes even in-laws.
“They have a third gender of men raised as women from boys that do the work of women and it stems from a shortage of women early in their history,” said Graves.
Graves explained that the countless, sleepless nights have paid off and he’s happy with how his final project turned out.
“I’ll be able to see links from not only my culture but others I interact within,” said Graves when asked about how this will help him in his career. “I want to travel abroad so this gives me perspective, and as a communication major graduating next fall that’s important to me.”