Tuesday, November 17, 2009
13: Pe'a (Flying-fox)
When we first came to Samoa I remember reading somewhere or being told that the flying-fox was the largest indigenous mammal on the islands when people arrived. In fact, bats are the only native mammals to the islands.
It is easy tell that it has a revered status in Samoan culture, this large fruit bat and the traditional male tattoo share the same name, pe'a. The tattoo is meant to look as if the bat has wrapped itself around the man's body, the two lines curving around the ribs represent the ears of the bat. Considering that the pe'a covers more than 60% of the body, those bats must have been huge back in the day.
I don't want to offend anyone with the crudely drawn penis in this picture. However you can just make out the lines coming around the front near the ribs and the very top of the tattoo on the back, which is also the ears of the bat (and a canoe).
Photo credit www.vanishingtattoo.com
I also know that bat is a delicacy here and photographs have informed me that it is still eaten. I am not sure how common it still is. It was once hunted to the verge of extinction.
My internet research (that's right folks, you too could be me with a little of the old Googles) on bats in Samoa led me to a story about the legendary Samoan woman warrior, Nafanua, being saved by a giant flying fox. Nafanua just happens to be the name of my house at school. In a very progressive turn, my school has named all its houses after the women of Samoan legends.
I don't know if the bat you see in these pictures is a flying fox. I believe there are three different types of bats in Samoa. However, this is the first one I have seen one in person, so I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about them.
Posted by Cale