Map of Samoa. Samoa is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawai i and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The total land area is 2,934 km (1,133 sq mi) (slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Rhode Island), consisting of the two large islands of Upolu and Savai'i which account for 99% of the total land area, and eight small islets. The land area is about the size of the two Hawaii islands Oahu and Maui combined.
These are the three islets in the Apolima Strait (Manono Island, Apolima and Nu'ulopa), the four Aleipata Islands off the eastern end of Upolu (Nu'utele, Nu'ulua, Namua, and Fanuatapu), and Nu'usafe'e (less than 0.01 km - 2 acres - in area and about 1.4 km (0.9 mi) off the south coast of Upolu at the village of Vaovai). The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population, and its capital city is Apia. View of Falefa Valley from Le Mafa Pass, east Upolu. The Samoan islands have been produced by vulcanism, the source of which is the Samoa hotspot which is probably the result of a mantle plume. While all of the islands have volcanic origins, only Savai'i, the western most island in Samoa, is volcanically active with the most recent eruptions in Mt Matavanu (1905 1911), Mata o le Afi (1902) and Mauga Afi (1725). The highest point in Samoa is Mt Silisili, at 1858 m (6,096 ft). The Saleaula lava fields situated on the central north coast of Savai'i are the result of the Mt Matavanu eruptions which left 50 km (20 sq mi) of solidified lava.
Samoa was previously located east of the international date line but in 2011, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele announced his country would move the International Date Line to the east of the country, so that Samoa would lie to the west of the date line. This change took effect on the night of 29 December, so that the Friday was skipped altogether and the following day was Saturday 31 December.
The climate is equatorial/monsoonal, with an average annual temperature of 26.5 C (79.7 F), and a rainy season from November to April. Savai'i is the largest of the Samoan islands and the sixth largest Polynesian island after New Zealand's North, South and Stewart Islands and the Hawaiian islands of Hawai i and Maui. The population of Savai'i is 42,000 people.
Samoa is located within the Samoan tropical moist forests ecoregion. Since human habitation began, about 80% of the lowland rain forests has been lost. Within the ecoregion about 28% of plants and 84% of land birds are endemic.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2006 was estimated at $1.218 billion USD. The industrial sector is the largest component of GDP at 58.4%, followed by the services sector at 30.2% (2004 est.). Agriculture represents only 11.4% of GDP (2004 est.). Samoan labor force is estimated at 90,000.
The country currency is the Samoan t l , issued and regulated by the Central Bank of Samoa. The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on agriculture and fishing at the local level. In modern times, development aid, private family remittances from overseas, and agricultural exports have become key factors in the nation's economy. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, noni (juice of the nonu fruit, as it is known in Samoan), and copra.
Outside of a large automotive wire harness factory (Yazaki Corporation), the manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. Tourism is an expanding sector which now accounts for 25% of GDP. Tourist arrivals have been increasing over the years with more than 100,000 tourists visiting the islands in 2005, up from 70,000 in 1996.
The Samoan government has called for deregulation of the financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline. Observers point to the flexibility of the labour market as a basic strength for future economic advances. The sector has been helped enormously by major capital investment in hotel infrastructure, political instability in neighboring Pacific countries, and the 2005 launch of Virgin Samoa a joint-venture between the government and Virgin Australia (then Virgin Blue).
Taro, a root crop, traditionally was Samoa's largest export, generating more than half of all export revenue in 1993. But a fungal blight decimated the plants, and in each year since 1994 taro exports have accounted for less than 1% of export revenue. In the period before German colonization, Samoa produced mostly copra. German merchants and settlers were active in introducing large scale plantation operations and developing new industries, notably cocoa bean and rubber, relying on imported labourers from China and Melanesia. When the value of natural rubber fell drastically, about the end of the Great War (World War I), the New Zealand government encouraged the production of bananas, for which there is a large market in New Zealand.
Because of variations in altitude, a large range of tropical and subtropical crops can be cultivated, but land is not generally available to outside interests. Of the total land area of 2,934 km (725,000 acres), about 24.4% is in permanent crops and another 21.2% is arable. About 4.4% is Western Samoan Trust Estates Corporation (WSTEC).
The staple products of Samoa are copra (dried coconut meat), cocoa bean (for chocolate), and bananas. The annual production of both bananas and copra has been in the range of 13,000 to 15,000 metric tons (about 14,500 to 16,500 short tons). If the rhinoceros beetle in Samoa were eradicated, Samoa could produce in excess of 40,000 metric tons (44,000 short tons) of copra. Samoan cocoa beans are of very high quality and used in fine New Zealand chocolates. Most are Criollo-Forastero hybrids. Coffee grows well, but production has been uneven. WSTEC is the biggest coffee producer. Rubber has been produced in Samoa for many years, but its export value has little impact on the economy.
Other agricultural industries have been less successful. Sugarcane production, originally established by Germans in the early 20th century, could be successful. Old train tracks for transporting cane can be seen at some plantations east of Apia. Pineapples grow well in Samoa, but beyond local consumption have not been a major export.
A Samoan family. Samoa has a population of 182,265 of which 92.6% are Samoans, 7% Euronesians (people of mixed, European and Polynesian ancestors) and 0.4% are Europeans, per the CIA World Factbook. About three-quarters of the population live on the main island of Upolu. Only the M ori of New Zealand outnumber Samoans among Polynesian groups.
Samoans' religious adherence includes the following: Christian Congregational Church of Samoa 35.5%, Roman Catholic 19.6%, Methodist 15%, Latter-day Saints 12.7%, Samoan Assemblies of God 10.6%, Seventh-day Adventist 3.5%, Worship Centre 1.3%, unspecified 0.8% (2001 census). The Head of State until 2007, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II, was a Bah ' convert. Samoa hosts one of seven Bah ' Houses of Worship in the world; completed in 1984 and dedicated by the Head of State, it is located in Tiapapata, 8 km (5 mi) from Apia.
The fa'a Samoa, or traditional Samoan way, remains a strong force in Samoan life and politics. Despite centuries of European influence, Samoa maintains its historical customs, social and political systems, and language. Cultural customs such as the Samoa 'ava ceremony are significant and solemn rituals at important occasions including the bestowal of matai chiefly titles. Items of great cultural value include the finely woven 'ie toga.
Samoan mythology includes many gods with creation stories and figures of legend such as Tagaloa and the goddess of war Nafanua, the daughter of Saveasi'uleo, ruler of the spirit realm Pulotu. Other legends include the well known story of Sina and the Eel which explains the origins of the first coconut tree.
Some Samoans are spiritual and religious, and have subtly adapted the dominant religion of Christianity to 'fit in' with fa'a Samoa and vice versa. As such, ancient beliefs continue to co-exist side-by-side with Christianity, particularly in regard to the traditional customs and rituals of fa'a Samoa. The Samoan culture is centered around the principle of v fealoa'i, the relationships between people. These relationships are based on respect, or fa'aaloalo. When Christianity was introduced in Samoa, most Samoan people converted. Currently 98% of the population identify themselves as Christian. The other 2 percent either identify themselves as irreligious, or do not belong to any congregation.
Some Samoans live a communal way of life, participating in activities collectively. Examples of this are the traditional Samoan fale (houses) which are open with no walls, using blinds made of coconut palm fronds during the night or bad weather.
The Samoan word for dance is siva with unique gentle movements of the body in time to music and which tells a story, although the Samoan male dances can be more physical and snappy. The sasa is also a traditional dance where rows of dancers perform rapid synchronised movements in time to the rhythm of wooden drums (pate) or rolled mats. Another dance performed by males is called the fa'ataupati or the slap dance, creating rhythmic sounds by slapping different parts of the body. This is believed to have been derived from slapping insects on the body.
The form and construction of traditional architecture of Samoa was a specialised skill by Tufuga fai fale that was also linked to other cultural artforms.
As with other Polynesian cultures (Hawai'ian, Tahitian and M ori) with significant and unique tattoos, Samoans have two gender specific and culturally significant tattoos. For males, it is called the Pe'a and consists of intricate and geometrical patterns tattooed that cover areas from the knees up towards the ribs. A male who possesses such a tatau is called a soga'imiti. A Samoan girl or teine is given a malu, which covers the area from just below her knees to her upper thighs.
Albert Wendt is a significant Samoan writer whose novels and stories tell the Samoan experience. In 1989, his novel Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree was made into a feature film in New Zealand, directed by Martyn Sanderson. Another novel Sons for the Return Home had also been made into a feature film in 1979, directed by Paul Maunder. Other Samoan poets and writers include Sapa'u Ruperake Petaia, Eti Sa'aga and Savea Sano Malifa, the editor of the Samoa Observer.
The late John Kneubuhl, born in American Samoa, was an accomplished playwright and screenwriter and writer. Sia Figiel won the 1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Momoe Von Reiche is an internationally recognised poet and artist. Dan Taulapapa McMullin is an artist and writer. Popular bands include The Five Stars, Penina o Tiafau and Punialava'a. There are also many contemporary Samoan artists living around the world. These Samoan artists include writers, filmmakers, visual artists, actors, directors, singers and dancers. In contemporary dance in New Zealand Lemi Ponifasio is a director and choreographer who is prominent internationally with his Company MAU and Neil Ieremia'sc company Black Grace has also received international acclaim with tours to Europe and New York. The arts organisation Tautai is a collective of visual artists including Fatu Feu'u, Johnny Penisula, Shigeyuki Kihara, Iosefa Leo, Michel Tuffery, John Ioane and Lily Laita.
In film, director Sima Urale is an award-winning filmmaker. Urale's short film O Tamaiti won the prestigious Best Short Film at the Venice Film Festival in 1996. Her first feature film Apron Strings opened the 2008 NZ International Film Festival. The feature film Siones Wedding, co-written by Oscar Kightley, was financially successful following premieres in Auckland and Apia. In music, the cover of the song Sweet Inspiration by The Yandall Sisters reached number one on the charts while King Kapisi was the first hip hop artist to receive the prestigious New Zealand APRA Silver Scroll Award in 1999 for his song Reverse Resistance. His music video Reverse Resistance was filmed in Savai'i at his villages. Other successful Samoan hip hop artists include rapper Scribe, Dei Hamo, Savage and Tha Feelstyle whose music video Suamalie was filmed in Samoa.
In comedy, Laughing Samoans, the Naked Samoans and Kila Kokonut Krew have enjoyed sold-out tours. Actor and director Nathaniel Lees has featured in many theatre productions and films including his role as Captain Mifune in The Matrix movie trilogy. In theatre, published playwrights include Oscar Kightley, Victor Rodger, Makerita Urale and Niuean Samoan playwright Dianna Fuemana. Tusiata Avia is a performance poet. Her first book of poetry Wild Dogs Under My Skirt was published by Victoria University Press in 2004.
International influences like hip hop impact on Samoan culture. According to Katerina Martina Teaiwa, PhD from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, "Hip hop culture in particular is popular amongst Samoan youth." This is not surprising considering the large amounts of migration between Samoa, Hawaii, and the United States mainland, specifically California. In addition, the integration of hip hop elements into Samoan tradition also "testifies to the transferability of the dance forms themselves," and to the "circuits through which people and all their embodied knowledge travel." Dance both in its traditional form and its more modern forms has remained a central cultural currency to Samoans, especially youths.
Samoa (blue) vs. South Africa in June 2007. The main sports played in Samoa are rugby union, Samoan cricket and netball. Rugby union is the national football code of Samoa. In Samoan villages, volleyball is also popular.
Rugby union is very popular in Samoa and the national team, nicknamed the Manu Samoa, is consistently competitive against teams from vastly more populous nations. Samoa has competed at every Rugby World Cup since 1991, and made the quarter finals in 1991, 1995 and the second round of the 1999 world cup. At the 2003 world cup, Manu Samoa came close to beating eventual world champions, England. Samoa also played in the Pacific Nations Cup and the Pacific Tri-Nations The sport is governed by the Samoa Rugby Football Union, who are members of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance, and thus, also contribute to the international Pacific Islanders rugby union team.
At club level there is the National Provincial Championship and Pacific Rugby Cup Prominent Samoan players include Pat Lam and Brian Lima. In addition many Samoans have played for or are playing for the New Zealand All Blacks. They also took home the cup at Wellington and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in 2007 for which the Prime Minister of Samoa, also Chairman of the national rugby union, Tuila epa Sa ilele Malielegaoi, declared a national holiday. They also were the IRB World Sevens Series Champions in 2010 capping a year of achievement for the Samoans, following wins in the USA, Australia, Hong Kong and Scotland Sevens tournaments.
Rugby league is also popular amongst Samoans, with Samoa reaching the quarter finals of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. Many Samoans and New Zealanders or Australians of Samoan descent play in the Super League and National Leagues in Britain. Examples are Va'aiga Lealuga Tuigamala who represented the New Zealand All Blacks, then became the first million dollar player to be contracted out to Rugby League to play for Wigan, then played Rugby Union for Newcastle Falcons before representing Samoa. Ta'ane Lavulavu of Workington Town, Maurie Fa'asavalu of St Helens and David Fatialofa of Whitehaven. Other noteworthy players have represented the Samoan National team.
American football is occasionally played in Samoa, reflecting its wide popularity in American Samoa, where the sport is played under high school sanction. About 30 ethnic Samoans, many from American Samoa, currently play in the National Football League. A 2002 article from ESPN estimated that a Samoan male (either an American Samoan, or a Samoan living in the mainland United States) is 40 times more likely to play in the NFL than a non-Samoan American.
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