Christian missionaries: “much that was distinctly heathenish”
This chapter focuses on foreign missionaries’ experience of and response to kirikiti. It first delineates the denominations that were active in Samoa and examine their general attitudes towards recreation. While most missionaries eventually accepted ‘European’ sports, Samoan pastimes were irremediably bound to ‘un-Christian’ practices such as lewd dancing, revelry and excess. This neat dichotomy was disrupted by Samoans’ adaptation of cricket into kirikiti. After initial efforts to proscribe the game proved fruitless, missionaries instead turned to moderating the game’s most objectionable features and using the pitch to further their proselytising aims in the village. In light of this shift, missionaries grew resigned to the game’s central place within increasingly ‘Samoanised’ churches—a position it would continue to hold throughout the twentieth century.