Destinations Magazine

The Va

By Sweetapple19 @sweetappleyard
The Va
Today, whilst I should have been writing my own thesis, I was reading someone else's. This thesis was written about a concept I had heard of a few months ago - The va
The va as it is known in Samoan culture is the space between - "not space that separates, but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together in the Unity-that-is-All, the space that is context, giving meaning to the things." - Leanne Clayton, 2007
In a community, it is a distance and space between two people, two genders, between a person and nature, between cultures. The space between two things is what makes us aware of them.
This concept is quite hard to get your head around. It is hard to bring a thing that we think of as nothing - space - into context - into reality. My brain wrestled with trying to make something intangible, tangible as I read it. The harder I tried to think about it, the harder is was to understand. But there is something beautiful about this concept to me. So I thought I would share a couple of my favouite quotes from this thesis below.  Hopefully they aid your understanding as they did mine.
"Wendt expresses that the va is not a vacant space; it is not a space that needs to be filled or a gap that needs to be closed (as Westerners tend to think) because there is no empty space, separate space or closed space. It is a space of woven connections, a duality of substance and respect; it gives context and symbolizes various things. However, these meanings can change, as the space is an endless changeable dimension of the va, the relationships that consistently define and redefine themselves in the spaces between two cultures." - Leanne Clayton, 2007

“There is the va-tapuia between brother and sister (the feagaiga relationship, the equivalent to a ‘sacred covenant’); the va-tapuia between the parent (especially father/mother) and offspring; there is the va-tapuia between male and female; there is the va-tapuia between host and guest, there is the va-tapuia between matai; there is the va-tapuia between the dead and the host and guest, there is the va-tapuia between matai; there is the va-tapuia between the dead and the living; there is the va-tapuia between man and his environment – sea and sky, flora and fauna; then there is the va-tapuia between the created and the Creator.” - Leanne Clayton, 2007

"As mentioned, the va is about the various relationships, and everything about these relationships can be expressed as patterns. Behavior, structure, images, feelings can be expressed as patterns that carry meaning. Meaning in my work is about the va and what I am trying to evoke is how my work can ultimately be seen as symbolic expressions of the va. The va is defined as a space but really it is for Samoans; about the relationships that occupy that space." - Leanne Clayton, 2007

Copy of thesis here
Much love xx

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