Pacific voices: Connecting with Samoan language, myths and culture

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Language and culture can tell us a lot about where we come from. For these New Zealand-born Samoans, this at the heart of truly understanding who they are. The Pacific Media Centre’s TJ Aumua reports.

A group of New Zealand-born Samoans meet every Tuesday night at Newton Pacific Island Church (PIC) to connect with the Samoan language and their culture.

The 10-week Fa’amatai Bilingual class, run by the Pasifika Education Centre (PEC), is a first step for those wanting to learn Samoan rituals and protocols.

The tutor of the class and also PEC Pasifika cultural adviser, Alaelua Taulapapa Leasoiloaifaleupolu Malesala, says the class was important as it allows the community to stay connected through language and culture.

“Many of our New Zealand-born Samoans and even some people that were born in Samoa travelled to Aotearoa at a very young age,” he says.

“They are now in positions of leadership in the New Zealand community which works with a lot of our Samoan community but they don’t have the ability to communicate with our Samoan people in the times that they do come together.”

This class ensures Samoan knowledge is imparted to those that reside in New Zealand, he says.

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For many of the students, the class has come to represent a revitalised connection to their language, culture and ultimately embracing their Samoan roots.

Passing on to grandchildren
Class member Peter Ah Kuoi says it is not only a “reconnection” for him, but learning Samoan language allows him to pass what he has learned on to his grandchildren.

“In our class today we learned about a legend, and it was a beautiful story, I think I could tell it to grand kids.

“I kind of missed the boat with [teaching] my children [Samoan] but I now have five grandchildren who I think at this age would be sponges for all these myths and legends of who we are and where we come from.

PIC church member in Newton Theresea Miller says the class will help her connect and better communicate with members of the Samoan community.

“We go on visitations [for church] and it’s good when we go Samoan families that we know the [cultural] processes.”

Mary Anne Copeland says she is taking the class to learn about the formal protocols and Samoan speeches.

“I’m really good with street talk I guess, talking within my own family. But being able to stand up and say a lauga (speech) and to stand up and be able to do a lot of the formal protocols, which normally I wouldn’t do, that’s what the extension of this programme has been able to help me with.”

Staying informed
Alaelua Taulapapa Leasoiloaifaleupolu Malesala encourages all Pasifika people to attend the language classes to stay informed and connected with one another.

“We must always make that connection with home,” he says.

“This is your opportunity to be exposed, be supported and gain some learning for yourselves so you can continue on with your role and responsibly within your aiga (family).”

This story is in celebration of 2016 Samoan Language Week (29 May-4 June 2016)

The theme for this year is:“E felelei manu, ae ma’au i o latou ofaga: Birds migrate to environments where they survive and thrive.”

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SOURCEPacific Media Centre
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TJ Aumua is Pacific Media Watch freedom project contributing editor for the Pacific Media Centre (2016). She is a recent graduate of Auckland University of Technology with a Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours) degree and with a BCS majoring in journalism and a minor in screen writing. TJ is also a contributor for the PMC Online and Asia Pacific Report and has been a recent summer research intern with Pacific Journalism Review.

1 COMMENT

  1. Malo faafetai TJ. Nice article.
    It was also nice meeting you in Fiji with your uncle Steve and his lovely wife.
    Hope your research in Fiji went well.
    Say hi to your mum and dad.
    PS. Malesala is my older brother.
    Regards
    Rei

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