Polynesian Food of the Gods: Ancient Custom of Reciprocity and Cohesion

Last month, I gave a mini-lecture about food and Polynesians.  This lecture was a cross-cultural alternative to the implications and considerations associated with presenting food at Western work environments and a forthcoming paper in development.  The generous sharing of food and hospitality are commonalities shared among the regions of the South Pacific, i.e., Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia, and symbolize the importance and placement of family, the value of respect, land, spirituality and Christianity, reciprocity (gift and exchange), communalism and kin (extended families).


In my discussion, we looked at the explicit and implicit meanings related to food supplied in Pacific-themed events such as fono (conferences or meetings).  Eating food is a physiological, socio-cultural, and reciprocal mechanism that reinforces constructive cultures for the attendees and the community, thereby strengthening the collective cohesion.  In addition, partaking in food rituals establishes new friendships and is a medium of ‘space’ for sharing formal and informal news.  Here, I pursued the notion that food rituals for Polynesians contain a spiritual dimension linked to the va (relational spaces), the cosmos (heavens), and the environment (land, earth, and sea).  The lecture delivered a modern-day cross-cultural orientation of providing food (as suppliers and recipients), and the practical considerations given the changes in healthy lifestyles, the fluidity of culture, globalization, communalism, and access to new forms of culturally-appropriate knowledge for Polynesians at work in New Zealand.


slide 1 Food lecture Betty


On a lighter note, I end this blog with a photo of culturally-diverse NZ Phd students who shared breakfast (coffee, muffins, and banana cake) at 8 am.  Please note that the male students were a bit shy to attend and have their photo taken with us ‘early morning risers’! 😊 Manuia le aso!


breakfast club betty 2017

Shadi (Iran), Ella (UK), Atirah (Malaysia), Ivy (China), and Betty (Samoa)


One Comment

  1. Abigail McClutchie

    What a great way to share multiple cultural understandings! I find food is an equaliser and brings us together when sometimes we struggle to find commonalities. It was interesting to see food and spirituality brought together in your piece. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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