Uafato Samoa

Keywords: unesco, world heritage,heritage,patrimoine,patrimoine mondial,convention,1972
Description: UNESCO World Heritage Centre

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The consideration of the Fagaloa Bay- Uafato/Tiavea conservation zone as a mixed site is based on its unique physical landscape and close relationship with the traditional way of living. The Faa-Samoa (Samoan way of life) governs the interaction between the people and their environment and remains an effective measure in maintaining harmony and security for all. The Uafato conservation area is the largest rainforest in the Pacific, thus contains some of Samoa's endemic flora and fauna, and marine resources. The cultural features found in the area represents the close association of the people and the environment and also symbolise a particular form of identity for Uafato - Tiavea communities. To date the traditional lifestyles is intact and continuously strengthened through the local governance of the faasamoa (Samoan way of life), the matai system (chiefs), and the interrelations of the people and its environment (va tapui'a), traditions and cultures. Hence the application of traditional conservation practices is enforced as a tool to protect and conserve its natural environment. Uafato has a very unique socio-cultural situation and the economic benefits of having a conservation site extends at the local, national and regional level. The combination of Uafato's lush rainforest, rugged topography, accessible waterfalls, considerable species diversity, coral reefs and unique cultural features gives the Uafato - Tiavea area great significance and potential for consideration as a possible nomination under "mixed site" for Samoa's Tentative list.

Fagaloa Bay is located on the eastern part of Upolu Island, known as the long bay is a ford-like formation of mountains that rise directly out of the water and forms the villages of Sauano, Saletele, Musumusu, Salimu, Taelefaga, Maasina, Lona, Samamea and Uafato. The distinctive features of the Fagaloa area portrays some of the most interesting myths and legends which to date are considered invaluable and relevant to the peoples' cultural lifestyle. The following myths and legends support the importance of these unique physical features in the Fagaloa Uafato area and its close association to the landscape of the area.

At the base of the bay lies the village Taelefaga at the mouth of the Malata river on a sandy alluvial soil. To the east above the villages of Lona and Uafato several waterfalls descend along the wall of mountain forests. On the western side is mountain Fao with spurs dissolving seaward into several surf-battered cliffs called Utuloa. Like the Fao in the west, the more broadly shaped Malata waterfall raises in the east. Further east lies Uafato bay at the eastern base of Malata which displays a spectacular view of lush rainforest and waterfalls. Facing the sea are single, tall, free-standing cliff pyramids and near the western cape are several caves into which the surf crashes. This landscape displays an outstanding aesthetic beauty rarely seen throughout Samoa.

The site around Uafato where the clay was harvested is sacred, and is located near Cape Utuele, 'ele' the Samoan word for clay. The origin of the name Utuele is told through the legend of Tuimanu'a (a paramount chief of Manu'a, one of the islands in the Samoan archipelago) and his deformed son born without lower limbs. Tuimanua requested his friend Folasa (a godly spirit) in Savaii for assistance for limbs. A covenant was then made between the men for Tuimanua to cast a portion of their meals to the sea as an offering for his son Kapuna. Upon receiving limbs from Folasa's son Kapuna, Tuimanu'a returned to Manu'a via Uafato. However Tuimanua did not honor his word and as a result the limbs started to dissolve and turned into blood. They arrived at a place between Uafato and Tiavea where the bleeding stopped hence, the area is renowned with its red earth today known as Cape Utuele.

Lufasiaitu known to be half human and half spirit lived on the coast of Uafato with a farm of forbidden chickens (moa sa) which only Lufasiaitu can eat. Whilst Lufasiaitu lived on the coast, Tagaloalagi known as the god of the heavens lived on the top of the mountains known as the tenth heaven. The taboo was put to test when members of Tagaloalagi's clan residing on the heavens attacked and ate Lufasiaitu's forbidden chicken. Lufasiaitu found out and in his fury raged war against Tagaloa and slaughtered his clan starting from the first heaven (mountain) right up to the eighth heaven. Seeing that his clan has been decimated, Tagaloa decided to make peace to Lufasiaitu by offering his only daughter Leamoa as his wife and to appease for the wrongdoing made by his clan. Thus, the origins of the following expressions widely used these days in Samoa's oratory:-

Along the western coast of Uafato bay is the resting place of the ancestral god Moso known as the 'tietiega o moso'. This place consists of a chair (nofoa papa), dining table (laulau), branching tar0 (talo magamaga), and a ava bowl buried in the sand (tanoa faiava) all made of stone. This was his usual resting place to enjoy his ava with Lufasiaitu and Tagaloalagi. Moso's presence in the area was recognized by three unique sightings - a streak of light out in the sea, anyone fishing on this particular night will not catch any fish, and piles of fish bones and sea shells found at his resting place. To date the sudden outburst of rain or the abrupt surge of waves are signs to indicate when foreigners visit the resting place without permission.

Fatutoama and Lufasiaitu lived at Uafato with their three sons, Niumea, Niuui and Niualava. Lufasiaitu went fishing and brought home a shark, he did not share with his family. Fatutoama was furious and left with the children for the mountains. During their journey the sons turned into stones until Fatutoama was left alone. Upon her last glance to see if Lufasiaitu was following, she too turned into a rock. Lufasiaitu became remorseful and went out in the ocean to find his family, but failed and turned into a reef. The stones of Fatutoama and her sons are located near the Afulilo valley and are significant cultural features of Uafato.

The name Uafato originated from the stacking of humans to build Lufasiaitu's house made of 100 human poles. One human was made to stand on the neck (ua) of the other to make one pole. Thus, the origin of the chiefly title 'Faleselau' (fale meaning house, selau - hundred) which bears reference to the hundred poles of Lufasiaitu's house.

Tuiavii a paramount chief discovered a headless man in the sea. Given that the area was unnamed he named it after this finding. That is, Tia, meaning head and avea meaning removed, thus the origin of Tiavea.

A man arrived ashore with his torso bitten off by a shark, hence the name 'muli'avea (muli meaning bottom), and avea meaning removed. Over the years, this did not settle well with the villagers who were ashamed of the name claiming that it was impolite. Therefore they decided to replace the name muliavea to Tiavea.

The Fagaloa - Uafato is geologically one of the oldest settlements in Samoa of around 3,000 years old. (Green and Davidson 1981). During that time local clay was used to make pottery, called Lapita pottery. The underlying basalt in this area belongs to the Fagaloa Volcanic Series, dating from the Pliocene or early Pleistocene (up to 3 million years old).The age of this basalt explains the high degree of land dissection and the advanced stage of soil weathering.

The district is located 30 km from the capital of Apia in a remote area on north eastern Upolu, where the land rises steeply to 730 meters in altitude to sharp forest covered volcanic peaks. The volcanic cones and lava flows have been dissected into a dramatic landscape of rock walls, short steep-sided valleys and long, knife-edged ridges, unparalleled elsewhere in Samoa. The sea bed drops away sharply from the rocky cliffs and largely forested coastline. (Park, Hay, Whistler, Lovegrove, Ryan: 1992:67). The villages including Uafato line the narrow sandy beach zone, sheltered by coral reefs. Behind the settlements, gardens extend up the base of the cliff line to meet the forest. The forest area extends from the mountains to the sea and contains many of Samoa's rare forest birds, bat species and native trees like ifilele, a valuable tree in Samoa.

The inclusion of Tiavea village (41 km from Apia) in the Fagaloa-Uafato conservation zone is mainly due to the existence of the rainforest that geologically binds Uafato and Tiavea and also, to ensure the property is of sufficient size to enable protection and management of the natural values of the site. This is further complemented by the unique physical landscape of the area and its isolated location in the most eastern part of Upolu.

The Uafato conservation Area is 1400 hectares of land in the strip of coastal hills on the north eastern corner of Upolu Island, between Fagaloa Bay and the Ti'avea area, immediately to the south east. Uafato's forest is still relatively intact and uninterrupted from the mountains to the coast, and contains many of Samoa's rare forest birds including its national bird, the manumea, tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris ) with at least seven other endemic bird species found in the same area.

The continued traditional economic importance of the rainforest to local people, the unsuitability of the land for agriculture or other conventional development, and the opportunities for income generation from forest conservation also contribute to the priority rating given to the site. Overall, according to Park et al (1992), the Uafato-Tiavea forest: 'fulfills better than any other area in Samoa the biological model of international nature conservation, the minimization of human impact on an environment and its natural processes'.

In terms of environmental awareness, the people of Uafato have considerable understanding and appreciation of their environment. The commitment by the community to help protect and conserve the resources includes restrictions on access to the forest and sea, bans on the use of chemical pesticides, dynamite and fish poisons.

Given the steep topography of the Uafato - Tiavea area, a small area of flat land is cultivated. Around 75% of agricultural land is covered with coconut. Other food crops include breadfruit, bananas, taamu (giant taro) and yam. Traditionally the application of land zoning is still widely practiced as a sustainable land management strategy. Located behind the village and extending inland is a coconut zone. Inland from this is a mixed crop zone of coconuts, cocoa, banana, taamu, taro, minor crops and fallow land and finally there is a third zone of taro plots.

According to 2001 census the population of Uafato is around 234 residents with 29 households. The settlement pattern is based on the matai system whereby the chief is responsible for the allocation of land and total well being of the family. A notable feature in these communities is the layout of the extended families surrounding the high chief's residence and providing communal support amongst themselves and the village.

There is a strong relationship between the community and its natural environment in particular land which defines and directs the identity of all Samoans. Land provides proof of ancestral bonds and relations for all families. Utmost respect for the land is vital not only for the existence of man alone but myths and legends which makes one community unique from the other.

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