Samoa, known as Western Samoa until 1997, consists of nine volcanic islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It was colonized by Germany and then the British until eventually coming under the control of New Zealand until 1962 when it gained independence. Even though the islands are vulnerable to cyclones, the economy is based around fishing and agriculture, however tourism and offshore banking have also picked up and foreign investment has recently picked up due to the existence of light manufacturing.
After New Zealand, Samoa has the second-largest Polynesian population, with about 92.6% of the demographic being Samoan, 7% of mixed Samoan and European descent and 0.4% European; about three quarters of the total population live on the island of Upolu. Even though the majority of Samoans practice Christianity, there is a devout Baha’i population here and the country is even home to one of the seven Baha’i Houses of Worship that is located in Tiapapata.
Culturally, the way of life is based around Fa’a Samoa, which literally means ‘The Samoan Way’ and represents a traditional system of behavior and responsibilities unique to the people from the Samoan Islands. Familial relationships are complex and intertwined, holding great importance within the community. In addition to family, faith and music (most commonly seen in ceremonies) also hold important aspects of The Samoan Way. Women take the largest role in traditional art forms, weaving mats that are used in ceremonies and gift exchanges. Traditional Samoan dance is called siva, and is often performed with traditional drumming and fire.