UC student Ebony-Jean Ta’avili talks about the importance of language in Samoan culture.
This week, we celebrate Samoan Language Week. The theme is “E felelei manu ae e ma’au o latou ofaga” – Birds migrate to environments where they survive and thrive. To me, this means Samoans may migrate to other places to find greater opportunities to provide a better future for themselves and their families, but they will never forget their homeland. This week, Samoans together with families and friends all around New Zealand, will embrace our culture and most importantly our language, (a bit more than usual) with pride and joy.
Our gagana (language) keeps us connected with our Samoan community. It is a strong link that binds us proud Samoans all around the world together. Our language is a big part of our culture. It is also a constant reminder that our ancestors shed blood and sweat for us to be an independent nation with freedom of speech. We use our gagana to communicate during our formal traditional ceremonies and gatherings (‘Ava Ceremony, welcoming ceremony, funerals etc.). Our elders have used our gagana to not only teach us moral values but to pass down traditional tales, myths and legends – our HISTORY – not only through spoken word, but through cultural songs and dances from generation to generation.
Our language reminds every Samoan ali’i (male) and tama’ita’i (female) who speaks it that he/she belongs to a beautiful respectful culture.