Once Were Warriors

Alan Duff, Once Were Warriors, Vintage Books, 2012, ISBN: 978177553285. First published 1990.

Heartbreaking. I don’t have a better word for Once Were Warriors. As the individual members of the Heke family slowly drift to their various fates I cried for them, and I hoped that they each would make that one small change, take that one extra step that might alter the future for them.

Beth Heke almost manages to break away from her life when her son Boogie (nicknamed for the Boogie Ghost that scared him as a child) is sent to a Boys Home after his parents forgot to turn up to his court appearance for theft. Too drunk, too hungover. The shock is enough to keep Beth sober for three months – long enough to save the money to rent a car and buy some treats to go and visit Boog. But as she and her husband Jake and their other children drive past McClutchy’s bar Jake’s friends say “Ya comin in or not?” and Jake says “Just one? Dear?”, and the day is gone.

Beth blames her Maori culture:

The going-nowhere nobodies who populate this state-owned, half of us state-fed, slum. The Maoris. Or most ofem are.

Feeling like a traitor in her own midst because her thoughts so often turned to disgust, disapproval, shame and sometimes to anger, even hate. Of them, her own people. And how they carried on. At the restrictions they put on themselves (and so their choiceless children) of assuming life to be this daily struggle, this acceptance they were a lesser people; and boozing away their lives and the booze making things all distorted and warped and violent.

It would be tempting to read Once Were Warriors as a black and white morality tale that concludes that traditional Maori culture is good, and the loss of it is bad. Beth and Jake are disconnected from their culture, as are many of their neighbours in the Pine Block public housing estate. When Beth returns to her childhood pa, her village, and sees what a re-connection with culture is doing for Boogie, and how her estranged extended family can still honour Grace, she seeks redemption for herself and for many of her people in a return to traditional understandings of the Maori way.

But it’s not as simple as that. Many of the Hekes’ Pine Block neighbours have some degree of connection with their Maori heritage, and yet continue to live the lives that Beth despises but cannot yet herself leave behind. Others are as disconnected as the Hekes but manage to register disapproval of Jake’s self-absorption and violence. Grace Heke, like her parents, has little understanding of traditional Maori life. Yet she is able to see beyond her daily life, at least until an act of fundamental betrayal convinces her that there is no potential left in her. And it was the Maori cultural practice of slavery that drove Jake Heke to reject a more traditional life and to jealously guard his manhood and pride, usually with his fists.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWhat each of the Hekes are looking for is identity and belonging. It’s not so much about being Maori as about being part of a community that values itself and its members. Beth and Jake’s oldest son, Nig, is searching for that belonging in the criminal gang the Brown Fists, but even at the moment of being accepted there he finds he has to leave other more valuable links behind. Grace’s loss of trust in what little community she has is too much for her. And while Beth and Boogie are finding a new way of being in an old culture, Jake’s possible redemption seems to come with a second chance to be a different kind of man, one who can perhaps, just for a moment, put aside his reputation and take responsibility for himself and for someone else.

It’s a cliché to call a book powerful, but it is a word that recurred to me as I read Once Were Warriors. I found it deeply affecting, troubling and yet beautiful. Heartbreakingly so.

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Food of Ghosts

Marianne Wheelaghan. Food of Ghosts. Pilrig Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780956614445

I confess to struggling to come up with a review for Food of Ghosts. I’m not a crime thriller/murder mystery/police procedural fan at the best of times, and I seem to have had a bit of an overdose of them in recent times (what is it with crime writers and Pacific islands anyway? I can see a post devoted to that question before the year is out). And I found the main character in Food of Ghosts, Detective Sergeant Louise Townsend, with her debilitating anxieties and her ambivalence about her identity, largely unlikeable. The pace was too slow for me, and there were too many side stories that seemingly went nowhere and contributed nothing.

So I went for inspiration to the interwebs and back to the blog that had first alerted me to the book. Blogger Marita is, by her own description half i-Kiribati and half Australian, and her review gave me such a different perspective on Food of Ghosts that I’m tempted to go back and read it over with Marita’s words in mind.

In one of my recent posts I pondered identity and writing, but my very different experience to Marita’s of Food of Ghosts has got me thinking about identity and reading. Although I’m afraid I’m not coming up with anything particularly deep or meaningful.

Why am I doing this project? Because I’m interested. Because I know a little about some Pacific island countries and want to know more. Because I feel these places are under-represented in fiction, particularly in indigenous writing in non-indigenous languages, and I’m interested in doing my tiny bit to draw some attention to what there is that’s available. But, having apparently so profoundly missed the point of much of Food of Ghosts, I wonder what I’m getting from this process, and what I’m giving.

The author of Food of Ghosts, Marianne Wheelaghan, is a Scot who has spent time as a teacher in Kiribati and Papua New Guinea. And without having read a local’s perspective on the book, I’d have written a review that said a bit about how this was an adequate crime mystery with some pacing problems that shed some presumably fairly accurate light on Kiribati geography and culture but didn’t give me any real insights beyond an outsider’s view of the superficial and common-to-the-Pacific cultural traits that I feel I already know a bit about. It took a local translator in the form of the review on The Little Island That Could to give me a different perspective on the story and the significance of some of its details.

Is this good enough? Should the author have done more to let me in on the connotations of the journey she was taking me on? I suspect not. To explain more of the context and meaning of every interaction would have ended up treating the reader like an idiot. Authors, I guess, just have to do their best with the culture they are working in and hope that the readers who join them have enough of a cultural map to be able to follow along, or at least learn something on the way.

To be fair to myself too, it’s not as though Food of Ghosts is a masterful piece of cultural interpretation that I’ve just been too dense to properly understand. I do think that Louisa’s reluctance to reveal her i-Kiribati identity is never really explained, and I think the side-story of her apparent obsessive-compulsive disorder is either underdone or just a distraction. But the book also brings to life the wry practicalities of island life, from the police catching a bus to a crime scene to the details of Louise’s extended family:

It seemed giving Reteta a few hours’ work a week also meant agreeing to let Reteta and her family camp in her back garden. Her scowling husband, their four giggling daughters, a twenty-something nephew, all smiles and muscles and the owner of the motorbike, and an elderly, anxious, skinny mother-in-law were usually there.

Family and community are very different in the Pacific to the culture I was brought up in. No one dies alone, and you certainly don’t live alone either. As Marita’s review reflects, it is the interactions of people and communities that form the complexity and joy and frustration of the islands. Insiders, outsiders, and inbetweeners, they’re all living big lives and making big decisions in very small places, and they can’t help but impact on someone nearby. Particularly when they are family and they are camping in your back yard.

Posted in Crime and Suspense, Kiribati, Women Writers | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Web

Jonathan Kellerman, The Web, Bantam Books, 1996

I picked up (or more correctly, downloaded) The Web because I knew it was set in Micronesia. I leapt straight to an assumption that it was the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), apparently the only novel set there that I’ve identified so far. But of course it’s location is actually the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a United States Territory. If I’d known I probably wouldn’t have read it, as there are plenty of other books set in the US Pacific territories to choose from. It’s also really not my kind of book.

The Web is number ten in the enormously long-running Alex Delaware franchise, which at the time of writing extended to 29 books, pumped out at the rate of roughly one a year since 1985. It’s correct categorisation is, I believe, ‘psychological thriller’. Author Jonathan Kellerman is a professional psychologist and has published in the field, so I guess the ‘psychological’ bit of the tag is apt, but I’m afraid I didn’t find The Web all that thrilling. To be fair, Kellerman’s website calls him the ‘master of psychological suspense’, and I think this is a better fitting tag.

I certainly felt suspended at times, waiting for something to happen. My criticism of the book is really about its pacing. Kellerman seems to spend an inordinate amount of time setting up the scenario and seeding clues as to the disposition and motivations of his various characters (and strewing about various red herrings) before suddenly rushing headlong into a completely unpredictable and barely explained set of circumstances leading to an unguessed-at and highly improbable end.

Alex Delaware and his wife Robyn Castagna have arrived on the fictional Aruk Island (also known, through an apparently bloodthirsty history, as Knife Island) at the invitation of the mysterious and slightly weird Dr Bill Moreland, who thinks Dr Delaware is the perfect candidate to help him synthesise the output of a long career in medical research. But the island, which Moreland more or less owns, is slowly stagnating, with almost no economic future for its people. The US Navy has secluded itself on one side of the island – blocking the only access road – after an horrific murder of a young woman was attributed to one of its sailors, although the case remains unsolved. While Moreland leaves the hosting of his variously odd and annoying houseguests to his estranged daughter Pam, he is in his locked laboratory at the bottom of the garden playing with his bug menagerie.

If keeping a zoo of deadly creatures with way too many legs than is necessary wasn’t already strange, Dr Delaware begins to doubt his professional colleague’s honesty. There are strange disappearances at night, discrepancies in Moreland’s stories, generally suspicious behaviour. And who exactly put the Madagascar hissing cockroaches in Alex and Robin’s bathroom?

The choice of a Micronesian island, fictional or otherwise, as a setting is an interesting one. Kellerman says on his website that when he wrote The Web he wanted to take Alex Delaware out of his comfort zone, but may also have been subconsciously yearning for his own tropical island getaway. Whether it was the location choice that gave rise to the plot or the other way around, the two do closely depend on eachother – you couldn’t just pick this story up and move it to a city or a village or a country estate in another part of the world. It relies on that special remoteness of islands, where the communications are sketchy, transport is routinely interrupted by weather, resources (including intangible ones like education) are limited, and communities are small and constrained, by geography, history and opportunity. And there are really big bugs.

Posted in Crime and Suspense, United States of America | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

My Island Homicide

Catherine Titasey, My Island Homicide, University of Queensland Press, 2013.

Winner: Emerging Queensland Author, Queensland Literary Awards, 2012

Australia’s Torres Strait Islands form a broken, dotted-line border with our nearest neighbour Papua New Guinea. Saibai Island is only four kilometres from the PNG mainland.

I once heard a Torres Strait Islander elder point out that he was part of a minority within a minority. The bit that makes our indigenous people hard to refer to, the TSI that means we have to use an acronym, rather than just talking about Aboriginal people. This doesn’t stop most of us from lumping all of those indigenous peoples in together, though, as one job lot.

Torres Strait Islanders of course have their own specific and rich cultures, as do the hundreds of other Australian indigenous language groups, tribes and communities. And those cultures have had to learn to rub along with, butt up against, adapt to, adopt or reject elements of other the other cultures they have crossed paths with over the millennia. My Island Homicide is a bit of a glimpse of how some of those many cultures have met on Thursday Island.

Senior Sergeant Ebithea (Thea) Dari-Jones is the newly appointed Officer-in-charge at Thursday Island Police Station. She’s taken the job looking for a quiet life after a nasty relationship break-up with partner Mark who she “busted… horizontally dictating correspondence to his assistant in our bed”.

She’s also hoping to connect with the culture of her mother, who is from Warral, or Hawkesbury Island. Thea explains her heritage to her colleague Shay:

“By the late fifties her entire family had left Warral to find work on TI. There wasn’t much so they went down south. Mum stayed and met my dad here [on TI] in 1960 when he was teaching at the high school. They had my two brothers and then moved to Cairns and never returned.”

“So, your dad’s like white?”

“And Mum is dark even though her great-grandfather came from Japan to dive for pearl shell”.

Thea’s hopes of a routine existence fade when she has to investigate a murder, one which begins to reveal all sorts of other nastiness, from a routine undercurrent of racism to organised crime, drugs and fraud. Thea’s investigations have to reconcile her two worlds of Islander belief in sorcery or maydh and her western upbringing and police training. Then there is the exciting but uncertain nature of her relationship with the thoroughly Islander, and thoroughly gorgeous, Jonah.

My Island Homicide is essentially light and breezy chick lit, although that might imply a shallowness that the book rises above. It’s a lot of fun, and Titasey’s amusing observations of Island life, such as the miraculous newsagency, where you can buy everything from newspapers (obviously) to toe rings to electrical appliances (but not aqua-jet foot massage machines), are witty and wry. This is, though, a murder mystery too, and the story doesn’t shy away from the violent facts of Melissa’s murder, or the grim details of life and crime on TI:

Cemetery, Thursday Island

Cemetery, Thursday Island

Although Indigenous people are more likely to offend than non-Indigenous, most offences in the Torres Strait involved alcohol, which resulted in assault, property damage, traffic violation, public drunkenness and domestic violence. There were a few drug matters, serious assaults like grievous bodily harm and sexual assaults, but those were the exceptions to the rule. Most offending was between parties known to each other, was opportunistic, and was nothing like the serious crime I was used to.

Apart from being somewhat affronted that domestic violence isn’t apparently considered to be ‘serious crime’, I like the way that Titasey is fairly clear-eyed and unsentimental about the world of Indigenous Torres Strait Islanders. Which brings me to a bit of a sideline issue but one that I can see becoming a something of a theme for this blog: who can speak for Indigenous people in fiction, and what does it mean when they do?

Catherine Titasey is, as far as I can tell without demanding a DNA test, is a white Australian woman. She lived in PNG during her early years, is married to a Torres Strait Islander man, and is mother and step-mother to six Torres Strait Islander children. She’s better qualified than most to write about the border-crossings of race and identity. But, she’s not mixed race or Torres Strait Islander herself. Does it matter? Not to me. I think she does a lovely job of evoking something of what it must be like to paddle around the borders. But I’m not mixed race or Torres Strait Islander myself, so who am I to judge?

At about the time that I was reading My Island Homicide I also read an excellent posting on Whispering Gums on he perils of white writers taking on black voices. The post contemplates Margaret Merrilees’ comments about speaking for Indigenous people in her debut novel The First Weeks, quoting Merliees as saying “To write about Australia…without mentioning the Aboriginal presence… is to distort reality, to perpetuate the terra nullius lie.” How do non-indigenous authors acknowledge and give voice to indigenous peoples without claiming to speak for them?

So far in my Raintree Café journey, Titasey is the only author I have encountered who, as far as I’m aware, attempts to speak as someone she is not. But Titasey’s Thea is a part-Islander woman who has been raised in the tradition of her white father, and comes to TI seeking to understand a culture she has only had a passing acquaintance with. It’s not a great leap, I am imagining, to Titasey’s own exploration of the heritage of her husband and children.

When does the leap become too great, the borders, both geographical and cultural, become a distance too vast to cross? Patricia Wrightson has been accused of misappropriating Aboriginal culture in her writing, but I loved The Nargun and the Stars as a kid, and it was certainly my first encounter with Indigenous Australian culture. The Guardian’s obituary for Wrightson speaks of her respect for Aboriginal culture, and to me this is the key. No one could accuse Titasey of being disrespectful to Torres Strait Islands culture in My Island Homicide, and I feel at least just a little the richer for her having given me this glimpse of a place I found amazing to visit but will never be able to fully absorb.

Posted in Australia, Crime and Suspense, Women Writers | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Moon and Sixpence

W Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, first published William Heinemann, 1919.

According to that deeply authoritative source, Wikipedia, Maugham referred to the title of The Moon and Sixpence in a 1956 letter, saying “If you look on the ground in search of a sixpence, you don’t look up, and so miss the moon.” It’s a reference to removing ourselves from worldly concerns and restraints so that we can see and pursue the divine.

The Moon and Sixpence is inspired by, if not based on, the life of artist Paul Gauguin, some of whose most well-known paintings were made while he lived in Tahiti. Tahiti hangs over The Moon and Sixpence, tantalisingly over the horizon through much of the novel, only reached near the end and somewhat at second hand, and thereby remaining something of an illusion – a paradise that we never quite attain.

The story is narrated at first, second and third hand by an acquaintance of Charles Strickland. Strickland uncaringly leaves his wife and children after many years of seemingly contented middle class life to pursue his need to paint. Most of the action takes place in London and Paris, and we only reach Tahiti nine years after Strickland’s death, when our narrator finds himself in French Polynesia and decides to inquire into his former associate’s (I wouldn’t term them friends) last years.

We know that Gauguin died in Tahiti of syphilis (for Strickland it is the slightly more respectable but perhaps more horrific leprosy). A 2001 article in the The Guardian contends that he played up the exotic erotic of Polynesia to his French audience to help sell his paintings, and in the end fell himself for the myth of Tahiti that he had created. Tahiti seems to play that mythical role in Maugham’s exploration of Gauguin, through Strickland, and the meaning and source of artistic genius.

Charles Strickland is described as having an immense sensuality, and at times seems hardly human:

…it seemed as though his sensuality were curiously spiritual. There was in him something primitive. He seemed to partake of those obscure forces of nature which the Greeks personified in shapes part human and part beast, the satyr and the faun.

I was reminded of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff.  Strickland’s behaviour in the civilisations of Paris and London is almost animal, concentrated on his basic and selfish inner needs, with little regard for the conventions of society or the feelings of those around him. He is at the same time somehow primitive and yet blessed with a sublime talent that transcends ordinary human capability and understanding.

The clichéd views of the south Pacific, a tropical Eden where men can regain their basic, primitive and erotic selves and thus come closer to God’s creation, make Tahiti the perfect place for Strickland to achieve his unrecognised greatness. Maugham’s narrative, while giving sympathetic portrayals of both the white and black inhabitants of Tahiti, does much to sustain the image of a primitive paradise on earth. Earlier in the book our narrator attributes to Strickland a prescience about his later life:

Sometimes I’ve thought of an island lost in a boundless sea, where I could live in some hidden valley, among strange trees. There I think I could find what I want.

And later he does find it. A tropical garden where God and nature provide, and a man is free to pursue his vision:

Ata’s house stood about eight kilometres from the road that runs round the island, and you went to it along a winding pathway shaded by the luxuriant trees of the tropics…

Here Strickland lived, coming seldom to Papeete, on the produce of the land. There was a little stream that ran not far away… and down this on occasion would come a shoal of fish. Then the natives would assemble with spears, and with much shouting would transfix the great startled things as they hurried down to the sea…

Then the cocoa-nuts would be ripe for picking, and her cousins (like all natives, Ata had a host of relatives) would swarm up the trees and throw down the big ripe nuts. They split them open and put them in the sun to dry.

No taro, though. Root vegetables require cultivation and aren’t nearly romantic enough.

Here in Tahiti Strickland seems, somehow, to regain some of his humanity. Ata’s devotion to him draws from him the only glimpse of emotion that we see, and ultimately enables him to achieve his greatest work. Strickland has found his paradise, but it turns out, as it always does, that there are other people already there.

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The Old Man, the Boy and the Shark

Joseph Veramu, The Old Man, the Boy and the Shark, self-published, 2011.

If you Google Joseph Veramu you find traces all over the interwebs of an apparently extraordinary man. He published his first story at 17, has studied science in London and education at the University of the South Pacific, and worked as a teacher and lecturer and for the United National Development Program. He’s been a consultant to Amnesty International and a researcher for Transparency Fiji.

He also writes lovely little books, if The Old Man, the Boy and Shark is anything to go by. (Actually, he also seems to have a bit of a sideline in outing gay Hollywood celebrities, but that’s perhaps for another day). The Old Man is a very short and simple children’s story with messages about the importance of patience, of passing on knowledge from the old to the young, and of the need for people to look after each other. It is also about learning from our mistakes, and allowing others to learn from theirs.

These are lessons we might want to teach anywhere, in any culture. Here they are taught using what I assume are traditional Fijian stories and legends and in the rivers and on the ocean around a Fijian village.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASeru’s father won’t take him out crab fishing anymore, because the first and last time they went out together Seru made a mistake, tearing the net and losing the day’s catch: “A crab was worth its weight in gold as was a net. He had lost both.” Crab catching is not an easy life:

At times, when crabs are hard to find, the patience of the crab-catcher is tested.

His features will slowly change. The wrinkled hands and face speak of the hard work of catching crabs.

Disappointed and bored, Seru wanders around the village until he finds himself talking with Malakai, “a lonely old man with a few friends”. Malakai takes Seru out crab fishing when his father will not, and in their time together tells him the stories of the sky-spirit who controls the rain, the chief who wanted to kill the sun, and chief Ligasavuyawa from Batini who saved his sons from the Ruler of the Sea. Another mistake of Seru’s puts him in serious danger, and Malakai risks his life, and uses the wisdom and skill of a long life, to save Seru.

Seru reflects after his adventures that one day he may be wise like Malakai, and hard working like his own father. Fine things to aspire to, whatever our culture or circumstances, and fine things to teach our children to value.

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Leaves of the Banyan Tree

Albert Wendt, Leaves of the Banyan Tree, first published New Zealand, Longman Paul, 1979.

Winner, New Zealand Wattie Book of the Year, 1980.

Vilsoni Hereniko says in his editor’s note to the University of Hawaii press edition of Leaves of the Banyan Tree (which I accessed only partially through the preview function on Google books) that Albert Wendt:

says that one reason he writes is to correct the inaccurate images of his people that have been created by early explorers and anthropologists like Margaret Mead…

As a Samoan, Wendt understands the aspirations, fears hopes and dreams of his people. As a leading intellectual from the Pacific, he straddles many worlds and is conversant with many traditions: the old and the new, the local and the global.

The statement sums up pretty much exactly what I got from Leaves of the Banyan tree. It is an important insight into traditional Samoan culture, from a Samoan point of view. It is also a view of a culture in transition, still learning which parts of the new papalgi culture it wants to adopt, and which ones it rejects. Which parts of Samoan culture are essential and immutable, and which ones can adapt to a new way of life.

Leaves of the Banyan Tree is often described as a saga. It crosses fifty years and more and follows three generations of the Tauilopepe aiga and their village as they grapple the changes that confront them.

By the time we join the village of Sapepe in the 1930s, Christianity is well entrenched, and fa’a Samoa is adapting and moulding itself around these new ways of thinking and being. One of the Sapepe matai, Tauilopepe, is convinced that other parts of the papalagi way are superior and worth pursuing for himself. He sees western commerce as a way of bettering the lives of his aiga, bringing prosperity and respect for himself and those he his responsible for.

Tauilopepe is determined to clear his aiga’s lands and put them to cultivation for cash crops that will buy a better standard of living for them all. A big church that is symbolic of his wealth, power and initiative. Education for his son. A big papalgi house with framed photographs on the walls and a good supply of whiskey. He is prepared to work hard for all of this, and he expects his aiga to work equally hard. In his single-mindedness he takes for granted many of his allies and friends, overlooks the sadness of his wife Lupe, the dissatisfaction of some of his aiga, and the slow estrangement of his son and heir Pepe.

Tauilopepe’s fellow matai, father-figure and mentor is Toasa. Although Toasa isn’t necessarily opposed to progress “a mysterious but evidently very important thing because the wireless always emphasised it”, he is representative of the old ways. He continues to tell the stories of the lions and the aitu in the forest, and to cultivate in young Pepe a love of fa’a Samoa and a fierce desire to protect it. And a rejection of Tauilopepe’s yearning for ‘Progress’.

Toasa is Tauilopepe’s conscience. But Tauilopepe is becoming more and more adept at putting aside any pangs of conscience and at justifying his actions to himself and to others. He increasingly rejects fa’a Samoa to embrace the new world, to the point of rejecting his country’s coming independence:

Yes, our country is to be self-governing early in 1962. With Independence will end the prosperous times. The papalagi, all highly educated men, have ruled justly and fairly. But our own leaders, all uneducated and ignorant men, will ruin our country. I am buying a house in Auckland in case our country collapses after Independence.

IMG_0384Leaves of the Banyan Tree is something of a grim read, despite its romantic setting, and I guess this is part of Wendt’s setting the record straight, dispelling the myths of the idyllic tropical paradise. Village life is full of hard work and complex obligations. For women particularly there seems little to be thankful for. Violence and sexual obligations are routine. They walk, speak and eat only after the men have gone before. For both genders, there is the routine humiliation of their treatment by the papalagi in Apia, regardless of their station and status in the village:

Toasa didn’t rebuke or hit the papalagi for his rudeness as he usually did when a Sapepean was rude to him… Tauilopepe wondered why and was ashamed for Toasa, ashamed and embarrassed for Toasa and his father, who in that moment of frightened humility ceased to be the giants they had always been in his thoughts.

Some, like Tauilopepe, respond by trying to equal the papalangi on their terms. Others, like Pepe, reject the papalagi ways and assert their traditional Samoan identity.

This is, though, Samoa, and there is great beauty here as well as hardship. The papalagi way of life may be asserting itself, but that way of life is grafted onto Samoa, and the banyan tree watches over it all:

Centuries old, the banyan looked as though it had always been there. Men had probably come, looked at it with bewildered astonishment, and passed on into oblivion. The base of the banyan was larger than the paepae of the biggest fale in Sapepe. It would even dwarf the church. Only the sea could match it.

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