Music credits Choir of Samoa Teachers' Training College, Malifa - Lota nu'u moni
Tālofa! Mālō le soifua! I’m delighted to author this blog for Matā‘upu Tau Sāmoa. Samoan Studies was established about 30 years ago at Va‘aomanū Pasifika, which is currently under the School of Languages and Cultures at Victoria University of Wellington – Te Herenga Waka. I acknowledge the path paved by our predecessors, Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin and Lemalu Tupuola Malifa – ‘o ē na asaina le gasū ‘o le tai taeao. This blog is a simple reflection of my five years so far with Va‘aomanū Pasifika and why I value my gagana Sāmoa as an educator and a researcher at university.
Socrates, the great Greek philosopher stated, ‘The beginning of knowledge is knowing yourself first.’ meaning ‘O le ‘amataga ‘o le a‘oa‘oina, ‘o lou iloa muamua e ‘oe ‘o ‘oe. No matter how far I have come in life, I can never change who I am. I am Samoan - a patriotic Samoan. Lotonu’u (loyalty to Sāmoa) sanctions me to appreciate my fa’asinomaga (identity with funds of indigenous knowledge), knowing I represent my mātua (parents) and tua‘ā (ancestors), nu‘u (village), ‘ekālesia (church), and atunu‘u (country). How I distinguish my fa’asinomaga guides the work I do for our tamafānau (people) and students. Our courses embrace students’ indigenous knowledge of their oral histories and genealogies enabling them to research further, rising to Socrates’ challenge of knowing themselves first. From conversation with a student:
“After taking SAMO paper last year, I went for my first trip to Samoa (at the age of 20) with my mother who left the island almost 50 years ago – it was so great to reconnect with my āiga, hear about my ancestors, my village, and most of all understanding the language and what was going on around me”.
For all our students, regardless of their ethnicity, Samoan Studies courses challenge them to develop new understandings of themselves as residents of multicultural societies and diasporic communities in Aotearoa. Students develop ideas to think globally and not feel mediocre in academic setting because of who they are, but to transform their ‘lotonu’u of their culture and ‘fa’asinomaga’ into studentships and employment later in life.
Samoan is the third most widely spoken language in this country so I’d like to close with a poem in Gagana Sāmoa which validates why I still embrace Samoan language as a lecturer and a Doctorate candidate at university level. I hope to inspire and empower another ‘loto’ out there to make the most of the ‘tree of opportunities’ in Aotearoa. – Soifua ma ia manuia!