Curious crowds have gathered to see traditional games being played by members of the Senior Community Employment Program (SCEP) at the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts in American Samoa.
The programme is carrying out research into traditional games and ways to revive them, says SCEP Division Manager, Valasi Lavata’i Gaisoa.
The game of taulafoga, which was mainly played by matai (chiefs) in the past, involves seeing who can throw a fine (stone) the furthest. Coconut shells can be used instead of stones.
Accuracy and concentration are needed to succeed at another game, fiti (flick game), which requires flicking a single stick clear of a pile. Fiti is played by women.
Gaisoa says taulafoga and fiti are traditional Samoan games that originated hundreds of years ago.
‘Taulafoga was a game for the matai when they had social gatherings where they were not doing anything but were practising the way they should speak.’
She says that playing the game helped inspire chiefs in the speaking skills they needed when addressing family or villagers.
To play the game, two teams sit at opposite ends of a flat, 60-foot long, raised playing surface. The surface is covered by a large mat on top of which a thin mat with a smooth surface is placed. Each team skims stones across the smooth mat to try and hit the other team’s fine off the mat and gain points.
Gaisoa says taulafoga has changed over time. ‘The game has evolved because now women are playing it, whereas before it was strictly for high chiefs.’
Fiti requires poise and accuracy, Gaisoa explains, and is usually very entertaining because players sing and dance as they play.
‘It requires a lot of coordination and concentration. Women play it in their spare time – they dance to help themselves loosen up and come back to flick only when a stick is not obstructed by other sticks and can be flicked clear of the rest.’
Gaisoa says elderly women continue to play these games today both for enjoyment and to revive and preserve an age-old art.
‘Our senior citizens have helped to revive these games, which is what the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts is all about – bringing alive our culture and tradition.’
For more information please contact Tione Chinula, SPC Human Development Programme Advocacy and Communications Officer, phone +(1 684) 254 0134 or e-mail