Polynesian family settlement (Samoa, 15th century)

Polynesian family settlement (Samoa, 15th century)

The architecture of traditional Samoan family settlements reflect the unique culture of their inhabitants.

Visual Arts

Keywords

lifestyle, settlement, culture, Polynesian, island, Pacific Ocean, watercraft, Polynesia, Samoa, 15th century, Middle Ages, architecture, dwelling, family, tropical climate

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Questions

  • In which ocean is Samoa located?
  • In which geographical region is Samoa located?
  • Is it true that Samoa is an archipelago?
  • Which plant cannot be found in Samoa?
  • Which building is typically round?
  • Which material was not typically used for building traditional Samoan houses?
  • Is it true that the structure of traditional Samoan settlements vary greatly?
  • Which building was situated nearest to the entrance of the settlements?
  • Which building was situated furthest from the entrance of the family settlement?
  • How much material was typically used to tie together the pieces of the frame of a traditional Samoan house (fale)?
  • What material was typically used to tie together the pieces of the frame of a traditional Samoan house (fale)?
  • Which animal is not native to Samoa?
  • Which building serves as the dwelling of the nuclear family?
  • What did traditional Samoan houses not typically have?
  • Which Samoan word means 'house' in English?

Scenes

Family settlement

Top view

  • fale tele - The most important building of the family settlement, a large house traditionally built on a circular ground plan. It served as a meeting house for gatherings or a guest house
  • fale afolau - A longer fale serving as the dwelling house of the nuclear family.
  • fale o'o - These were smaller houses serving as the dwelling houses of the extended family and used for various activities.
  • fale umu - The cooking house, one of the fale o'o. This house was usually situated at the back of the settlement.
  • Polynesian catamaran

Fale tele

Fale afolau

Fale o'o

Fale umu

Tools

  • fau - A 'brush' made from the inner bark of the fau plant (Hibiscus tilliaceus). It was used to mix and strain the 'ava beverage.
  • tanoa - Also called laulau, it was a wooden bowl made in various sizes and used for preparing the ritual 'ava drink. The size of the bowl, and the length of its legs varied.
  • mortar - It was used to prepare the ritual 'ava drink by crushing the woody roots of the Piper methysticum ('intoxicating pepper') plant.
  • nifo'oti - A club originally carved from wood but later also made of metal. It had a serrated edge on one side and a hook on the other with a sharp blade. It was used for many purposes such as cutting reed, opening coconuts or chopping whale meat.
  • fa'alaufa'i - Originally carved from wood, later also made of metal, it was a sharp, bilateral toothed club resembling a banana leaf. It was used as a weapon.

Animation

  • fale tele - The most important building of the family settlement, a large house traditionally built on a circular ground plan. It served as a meeting house for gatherings or a guest house
  • fale afolau - A longer fale serving as the dwelling house of the nuclear family.
  • fale o'o - These were smaller houses serving as the dwelling houses of the extended family and used for various activities.
  • fale umu - The cooking house, one of the fale o'o. This house was usually situated at the back of the settlement.

Narration

Samoa is located in the Southwest Pacific, on several islands in the Polynesian region. Between the 10th and the 13th centuries, these volcanic islands were part of the Kingdom of Tonga. The first European explorers arrived here in 1722.

The tropical climate and the natural resources have greatly influenced the life of the inhabitants, including the architecture of traditional family settlements. The design of the houses mirrors the culture and life of the Samoan people.

The structure of Samoan family settlements followed a typical pattern. The building nearest to the entrance was the fale tele, that is, the guest house. This house was built on a circular ground plan. The long fale afolau, which is where the nuclear family lived, was situated behind the fale tele. There were also several smaller houses, called fale o'o, on the family complex. These were where other family members lived, or they were used for various activities. One of these smaller houses was the fale umu, or the cooking house, which was nearest to the border of the family settlement. The outbuildings were in the back. The settlement was bordered by the areas where animals were kept and plants were grown.

These different types of fale were constructed using the same materials and the same techniques. The most important materials used were shafts, branches and leaves of trees and bushes. Buildings were typically built on raised platforms. The tools used in constructing them were simple, but the techniques were sophisticated and efficient. Master house builders were highly respected members of their communities.

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