Painting by Catherine Buchanan

While trying to keep up with a modern society, we try and keep up with a fast paced world. Keep up with contemporary slang, keep up with life in general and assimilate into western culture or western influence (if you live in Samoa).

While we are doing that, we learn so much about ourselves in this process of self-discovery or  ‘unpacking our cultural norms’ as I like to call it.  

The process of this unpacking and this dissecting of our culture is influential to us in our childhoods and eventually affects the decisions we make in our lives. And this process can often be a carthartic experience.

Sometimes our upbringing puts ourselves and those around us under a microscope of scrutiny.

However the lens upon which we scrutinize is not always viewed in favor of our culture. Any process of unpacking exposes itself to critique.

I have read countless stories pertaining to our Pacific Island people speaking of the pressure to provide for families; the countless monetary donations and the pressure to just survive whilst also fulfilling our roles as dutiful sons and daughters of the Pacific.

My process of unpacking involves all the pressures mentioned above and this has affected me and the choices that I have made in my life too.

For the sake of balance and my current state of cheer, I want to focus on the positives of my Samoan culture and how these too, have contributed positively to my current state of being.

The quintessential essence of my culture is a belief and a faith in God. A belief system to anchor you during those times in which explanation and logic just aren’t enough and whereby a spiritual connection is the only thing holding you afloat during those trying times.

Those evening prayers as a family, an acknowledgement of thanks before every meal, the mandatory church attendance, though at times I wasn’t always a willing participant however, I snuck in some genuine banter with the big man when my cloak of teenage rebellion fell off.

My family would consist of my cheek pinching aunty, the dry jokes uncle, the protective older cousins, the Sundays where every nook and cranny of the house was covered with family members who were not over for just a quick visit but for the whole day!

Did I say Sunday? Oh sorry I meant everyday!  The sheer numbers of your family are enough to intimidate. But on the flip side of that is the love that envelops this group of people whose commonality is each other and whose commonality is you too.

In a world that speaks of loneliness and the quest for love, the comfort and reassurance of knowing that in this big world there is an army of people who love and will gather together for you, is a powerful force to spur you on in whatever path you choose.

The sum total of who I am and the paths I have chosen can be attributed to my upbringing and all that it entails. But I am also a product of the choices I have made devoid of the environment in which I was raised.

The lens upon which I view my life is also a choice that I make and while not all the elements of my culture are perfect, nothing ever is. And whilst the journey of unpacking requires unearthing old wounds, it is also a time of embracing and delighting in celebration of who we are as Samoan women.

By Lyn Anamani


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