Teuila Festival 2016- Samoa

You may have noticed that over the years I like to share the different Pacific Islands’ cultural events that take place, well, anywhere in the world.  Many of these take place in the Australia, New Zealand and the USA and usually span over a day or two. However, when one of the Pacific Islands nations has a festival, they really have a festival! They don’t just take place for one day, or a weekend. On the contrary, a true festival in this part of the world can be a week long (or longer) celebration that showcases and shares their unique cultural pride, values and helps communities reunite and reinforce their national identity. A perfect example of this could be seen at festivals such as the Merrie Monarch Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii and the Hibiscus Festival in Suva, Fiji.

Teuila Festival

Today, I would like to share some information regarding the upcoming Teuila Festival that will take place in Apia, Samoa, from September 4-10, 2016. Since it was established in 1991, Samoa’s Teuila Festival has grown to become one of Samoa’s most celebrated annual events, and one of the Pacific Islands’ biggest cultural festivals. 2016 marks the 26th Annual Teuila Festival.

Some of the highlights for this year’s events include:

Choral Exhibition where melodies of Samoan and English hymns are performed by choirs representing the country’s major denominations.

Cultural Show & Teuila International Siva Ailao Afi Competition (Fire Knife Dance) where performers equipped with a metal ornament with flaming towels at each end wow the crowd with their twirling prowess and speed while doing other acrobatic stunts.

Cultural Siva (Dance) Competition as village and church groups compete for the Teuila title. Always popular are the graceful dance performed by the women where the dancer tells a story with her hands, and the fast actions of the fa’ataupati or slap dance which is performed by the men.

Musika Extravaganza where local bands and artists entertain the crowds.


Miss Samoa Pageant where one will be crowned to represent Samoa at the next Miss Pacific Islands Pageant.

Samoa Cultural Village Tour where demonstrations of the ‘umu’ (Samoan ground oven), weaving, tattooing and much more will take place throughout the week.

SIFA Fautasi Challenge which is a Samoan long boat, race. Watch as villages compete for top-honors. The fautasi were used in the past for inter-island transport.

Carving Competition where master artisans create beautiful pieces of art out of nature.

And don’t forget the food! What’s a festival without food?

You can view entertainment from previous Teuila Festivals on Youtube. But, don’t forget to check the site often to watch events from this year’s festival. If you get a chance to attend in person, fantastic. You will be thoroughly entertained!

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ICAS Fiji Project 2016


In the past couple of years ICAS has been taking on many projects in the capital town of Suva, Fiji. It is nice to see how the capturing and telling of Fiji’s history, as well as the importance of safeguarding archives is becoming a hot topic throughout the country. With each visit to the nation’s capital, I am starting to get a real sense that there is much enthusiasm for the collaboration of sharing their culture. I have no doubt that this enthusiasm will only continue for years to come.

ICAS’ latest project took place from June 20 to July 1, 2016 in Suva, Fiji. Feel free to read the full report by accessing it here.

The two main projects in Suva were working at the National Archives of Fiji (NAF) and the archives at the Oceania Marist Province (OMPA), respectively. The NAF have made great strides since my first visit three years ago. It now boasts a staff of more than thirty employees in five archival sections that include, Archives Administration and Advisory Services, the Sir Alport Barker Library, Microfilm and Photocopy Unit, Conservation Unit and the Digital Continuity Unit. Their Facebook page has over 27,000 followers and is growing every day, and the archives has just recently created and launched a new Website. Today, through their vision and mission, the NAF has become the premiere archival institution in Fiji for collecting and safeguarding authentic records, supporting evidence based governance and inspiring Fijians to explore and share their history. The archives has also become very active within the community as well as with the communities of the outer Fijian islands to promote their collections and services. They eagerly and enthusiastically conduct outreach services at Open days, road shows, conferences and festivals throughout the islands and the region.


Some of the historic items on display during the International Archive Day Open Day at the National Archives of Fiji

The OMPA, on the other hand, is a much smaller archives than the NAF that contains a rich history of the Marist’s mission in the Pacific Islands region. The collection dates back to when the Marists first arrived in Fiji in about 1844. The archives also contains documents created by Marist’s work in other islands such as Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. The archives is safeguarded by one person who works part-time which in the archives field would be known as a “lone-arranger.” Fortunately, over the years volunteers have created a stable environment for the records and easily accessible collections.

Other highlights of my time in Suva included participating at the NAF during their International Archives Day festivity and having meetings with colleagues at the University of South Pacific (USP). It always amazes me how much work, collaboration, outreach and fun can get done in just two weeks! Of course, no trip to Fiji is complete without enjoying a lovo (underground oven) with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon.


A Fijian Lovo- taro leaves with coconut milk (in tin foil) and taro. Eventually, chicken and fish was added to the hot stones. It was yummy.

ICAS would like to graciously thank Opeta Alefaio and the staff at the National Archives of Fiji, Father Roger McCarrick and the members of the Oceania Marist Province, Jason Flello and the staff in the USP Records Management Department, Javed Yusuf and his staff at the USP Multimedia Department and Paulina Navuku and her family for their wonderful hospitality.

I look forward to working with all of these people and organizations in the near future.

Vinaka vakalevu!


A rainy Fijian day, Viti Levu, Fiji


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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was celebrated around the world a couple of days ago on August 9. This year was devoted to ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education.’ The designated date of August 9th goes back to 1994 when the United Nations General Assembly established the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to be observed on this date to mark the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights back in 1982.

The Talamua Online News (Samoa) ran a very interesting article about the day. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here. I have selected a few paragraphs to share below:

There are around 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, living across 90 countries and representing 5000 diverse cultures. They make up less than 5 per cent of humanity, yet represent around 15 per cent of the world’s poorest people. Two thirds of the world’s indigenous peoples live in Asia and the Pacific. They include groups often referred to as tribal peoples, hill tribes, adivasis, janajati, orang asli, aboriginal or native.

Indigenous peoples make significant contributions to humanity’s cultural, intellectual and economic wealth. Across Asia and the Pacific, they are sharing essential knowledge and skills in conservation and the sustainable use of land, forests and natural resources – key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet many indigenous peoples remain unprotected and unrecognized. They face forced assimilation, exclusion and systemic discrimination. Their cultures, stories and knowledge are in danger of being lost. Indigenous children, in particular, are often deprived of opportunities to fulfill their full potential. The promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure a life of dignity for all, leaving no one behind, so special attention must be paid to the needs and rights of indigenous peoples.

Education is essential to preserve the unique identities of indigenous peoples, as well as for the full development of their potential as individuals and as communities. This is why the United Nations has chosen ’Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education’ as the theme for the 2016 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The UN Declaration recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to be educated in their own languages and cultures and calls on states to guarantee this right.

Yet there are many barriers to fulfillment, including a low prioritization of education for indigenous peoples in allocating public resources, language barriers and discriminatory and racist attitudes in education systems that are often reflected in textbooks and materials. Indigenous communities in Asia and the Pacific also face obstacles in accessing health services, including quality sexual and reproductive health care and family planning. As a result, maternal and child mortality rates are higher, life expectancies are lower and people die younger among indigenous groups.


Children “ringing the bell” for school, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

It is hoped that more progress will be made to urge all governments to better prioritize the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples in policy planning and to offer more opportunities for their participation in policy planning and implementation. There is also a need and desire for governments to gather, analyze and disseminate accurate and disaggregated data on indigenous groups for sound policy formulation.


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Te Maeva Nui Celebrations- Cook Islands

The Te Maeva Nui celebrations on Rarotonga, Cook Islands, began last week and will continue to run for about nine days ending on August 6, 2016.

The Cook Islands Constitution Celebrations is the nation’s celebration of nationhood, self- government and independence. Held annually around the national day of 4th August since 1965, it is the one event that involves the whole country, all the islands, vaka, oire and tapere. Since 2001, it has been re-named as Te Maeva Nui, in recognition of the cultural basis upon which the event is based. It has also developed into an event with significant public participation and therefore economic activity, creating the environment and potential for investment and returns. The celebrations include a float parade & opening ceremony, international night, choir competition, island days and cultural performances.

Several Te Maeva Nui participants say they’re enjoying the spirit of sharing their culture and camaraderie among the teams and the 2016 festival already has an atmosphere of unity and joy.

The event typically starts with a colorful float parade along the main road of Avarua, on Rarotonga. Click here to view some pictures of the parade.


The cultural performances will feature original compositions, original choreography and original costumes, take place throughout the celebrations. In addition to the Imene Tuki  (known as the”hymn of grunts” which is a traditional hymn of the Cook Islands. It is unaccompanied singing noted for a drop in pitch at the end of phrases, and rhythmic nonsensical syllables, comparable to Scat singing. Similar nonsense syllables and improvisations are found in Tahitian Himene tarava) and Choir sections these performances display unique and vibrant performances in 4 categories:

  1. Ura Pau – Fast upbeat dance displaying stamina, creativity and endurance of the dance team to a composer rhythm of the drums.
  2. Kapa Rima – Slow pace item showcasing technique and grace in the hand movements of the dancers.
  3. Ute –Traditional chant, all performers sit in a U‐shaped formation with the women sitting down in the middle and men standing up around them.
  4. Pe’e ‐ Traditional chant performance showcasing the strength, courage and unity of the island performing.

All these performances portray a sense of Cook Islands Culture through the art of dance displaying strength, courage, uniqueness and many other traits that all Cook Islander possess.

Click here to access the official program.


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The Fight Against the Cultural Tsunami

I recently came across an interesting interview of Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, Minister for the Promotion of language, culture, communication and environment of French Polynesia. He was interviewed during the 27th Council of Pacific Arts at the Festival of Pacific Arts that took place in Guam a couple of months ago. The Council consisted of government directors of culture and arts throughout the Pacific Islands. The group was quite upbeat about the potential growth of arts in the Pacific, as a form of cultural expression, way of life and source of job creation, tourism and economic growth.

Guam’s Lieutenant Governor, Ray Tenorio, who emphasized the importance of the Council’s efforts to promote the indigenous traditions of our Pacific nations. He addressed the council by stating, “It’s important work that must be continued because what you do here assists in the perpetuation of some of the most beautiful and unique ways of life the world has ever known.”

The Council discussions included: preparations for the 13th and 14th Festivals of Pacific Arts, progress in cultural development in the region, including on enhancing the cultural industries; a presentation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), and the mid-term review of the Regional Cultural Strategy: Investing in Pacific Cultures 2010-2020. The Council also discussed the potential for growth in the relatively new sector of Pacific film, alongside more established forms of cultural expression, and agreed that The Pacific Community (SPC) should continue progressing, with its member countries, the development of the film sector in the region.


Canoe, Honiara, Solomon Isalnds

As for Mr. Maamaatuaiahutapu’s interview, he was asked the question:  “What are, according to you, the main challenges the Pacific cultural industries are facing, and what are the priority actions to take at the strategic level?”

Maamaatuaiahutapu was concerned about the fight against the cultural tsunami that is barreling down on the Pacific Islands through television and the Internet. He believes that preserving cultural diversity in the region is an important issue with globalization and needs to be examined at a local, regional and international level.

Check out the four minute interview by clicking here. It is in French with English subtitles.


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Pacific Storytellers Cooperative

Last week the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) announced the exciting news about the launch of the Pacific Storytellers Cooperative, an internet platform for place-based stories from all Pacific Islands to be shared with a global audience. This multimedia effort embraces the rich Pacific storytelling heritage and brings it into the internet age.

PREL is an independent, nonprofit organization with staff from mainly Micronesia countries, plus Hawaii and American Samoa. Their mission is to enhance community well-being through partnerships in education, and they envision strong schools, healthy communities, and thriving cultures with Pacific hearts and global minds.

Dan Lin who is The Pacific Storytellers Cooperative Founder and Director, as well as a senior research and policy specialist at PREL, said, “This project seeks to find the nexus between oral traditions of our island communities and present-day modalities of communication, especially among youth of the Pacific.”

The project originated when Lin, who is a regular contributor to National Geographic and the Associated Press, as well as a crew member on Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage, saw a need for an accessible and inclusive digital storytelling platform. Lin continues, “Storytelling is a very embedded part of Pacific culture and Indigenous cultures generally. We want to encourage the younger generations to take up the mantle of telling stories and to take advantage of greater levels of connectivity and improved technical capacity—which exists even in remote places.”


Sunset, Koror, Palau

The Cooperative accepts submissions in all forms from Indigenous Pacific Islanders and residents including written stories, photos, videos, and poetry. An editorial advisory group composed of volunteers from across the region will serve as content curators and submissions will be edited for clarity and length. “As long as someone is willing to tell a story, we’re willing to help them be heard,” Lin stated. “Within the Pacific, Indigenous communities are too used to someone else telling stories on their behalf,” he observed. “It’s time to reclaim the role of tellers of our own stories, which is critical for bridging the gaps between generations.”

Renowned Marshallese poet, activist, and Pacific Storytellers Cooperative collaborator Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner affirmed the Cooperative’s importance. “This project sees the value in the art form, as well as in other mediums such as using film and social media, and I’m excited that we’ve been able to reach youth in the Marshall Islands, Guam and Saipan so far. I’m really looking forward to getting this project to other parts of the Pacific as well,” she said.

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Tatau Exhibition in Los Angeles

For those of you living near, or visiting Los Angeles, take some time and check out the Tatau exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum. The exhibit is titled, Tatau: Marks of Polynesia, and is a photographic exploration of Samoan tattoo practice.

Tatau explores the beauty of Samoan tattoos as well as the key role they play in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. Through photographs taken in the studio and on location in Samoa and elsewhere, the exhibition showcases the work of traditional Samoan tattoo masters alongside that of younger practitioners working within and influenced by the tradition today.

The opening day of the exhibition will include live tattoo demonstrations by several of the featured artists, lectures by exhibition curator Takahiro “Ryudaibori” Kitamura and others involved in organizing Tatau, and signings of the full-color catalog that accompanies the exhibition. All opening day activities will be included in museum admission, though space for some is limited.

An indigenous art form with a continuous history that dates back 2,000 years, tatau has played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture, surviving many attempts at eradication.

In Samoa, tufuga tā tatau (master tattoo artists) are accorded high status in society, and acquiring tatau is considered a powerful affirmation of national identity, particularly for young men, for whom it is an important rite of passage. Tatau motifs and symbols are also being adapted by younger artists for new media and art forms. Both the traditional tattoo and its more contemporary manifestations have helped to create and affirm identity for new generations of Polynesians and others living outside of Samoa.

Photographs taken in New Zealand, Hawai‘i, California, and Nevada demonstrate the spread of the art form outside of Samoa and some of its newer interpretations. Among the artists featured in Tatau are Su‘a Sulu‘ape Alaiva‘a Petelo, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Peter, Su‘a Sulu‘ape Paul Jr., Su‘a Sulu‘ape Aisea Toetu‘u, Sulu‘ape Steve Looney, Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi, Mike Fatutoa, and Sulu‘ape Si‘i Liufau.


An example of a Samoan tatoo

The exhibit will run from July 30, 2016, to January 8, 2017. Here’s the museums location:

100 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90012


Another example of a Samoan tatoo

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