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.
Born and raised in Samoa, UC Bachelor of Science student Victoria Faalilo says moving to Canterbury in 2012 was a challenge. She says reconnecting with her culture through the UC Pacific Development Team and CUSSA has been a big help. She shares her thoughts on the importance of Samoan Language Week.
Around this time every year, the Samoan communities around New Zealand celebrate Samoan Language Week. They celebrate through dance, songs and sharing stories, or even over a Samoan feed such as Sapasui (Chop Suey). This week is not only about the language but also about other aspects of the Samoan culture. 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.”
Being a Samoan is not about the tattoos or how well and graceful we perform the Samoan Siva. God, respect, love and family are some of the values that the Samoan people strongly believe in and that lie within the beauty of Fa’a Samoa. These are what we should value as Samoans and we should let them be our priorities.
The younger generations are so afraid of speaking because they’re scared of people looking down on them when they are not quite on their level, which is why I choose to quote this: “Learn to speak Samoan, not so you may sound Samoan but so you may feel the essence of being a Samoan” – Lemalu Tate Simi.
Samoan Language Week runs from 29 May until 4 June. Samoan is the third most spoken language in New Zealand and UC currently has around 200 students of Samoan descent. We asked one of our Samoan students, Wilson Uliano, to talk about why the week is important for him.
My name is Wilson Uliano and this week is Samoan Language Week or Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa. The theme is ‘E felelei manu, ae ma’au i o latou ofaga’, meaning ‘birds migrate to environments where they survive and thrive’.
Samoan Language Week is a great time for New Zealanders, especially students , to explore the values of Samoan culture and to embrace the language and symbols of Samoa. A great place to start is this education resource. The week is also important for Samoan people to be able to maintain their culture or enhance their current knowledge.
People are also able to engage with their aiga or family and for non-Samoans, they are able to learn fa’a Samoa – the Samoan way. Christchurch City Libraries also have some fun family events planned for the week.
For myself, growing up in a full Samoan family is amazing and usually Samoan Language Week is a time for me to be proud of where I come from, be proud of my family and our traditions, and be proud of who I am as a Samoan.