Samoan Language Week 2021

This is Samoan Language Week in New Zealand and journalist Anric Sitanilei wrote a piece about the meaning of the theme for Radio New Zealand. He wrote the article in English and Samoan. I will relate the English version, but if you want to view the Samoan parts, simply click here.

This week is a week where people prioritize Samoan culture and language. The theme for this year’s Samoan Language Week has been penned “Strengthen the posts of your house, for all to thrive.” But what exactly does this mean? Where is this phrase getting at?

Before you set out to make and settle into your home, you first have to take a deep look at how the house is built; not only does it have to be strong and stable, safe and also aesthetically pleasing, it also needs to serve a purpose to the household, making it suitable to cater to whatever the needs of the family.

When it comes to a traditional Samoan house, there are two main parts, the foundation and the roofing; but the connection between a stable foundation and a strong roofing, is the posts. Because of this, we can use a traditional ‘Fale Samoa’ as a metaphor to further emphasise observing the importance and significance of our culture, for the progression and development and happiness of a family.

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Traditional Samoan Fale, photo from ICAS

One important post for any Samoan family, is that of language. To better reach a mutual understanding in a family, there must be an emphasis on Samoan Language, to provide compassion and empathy – which in turn brings about open communication, interdependence and mutual reliance. To facilitate a setting where care and protection is given and received in a family, one must take heed of the saying,E tupu le faatuatua i le taulogologo’ (Faith is birthed from awareness). Language is also the medium through which guidance, assistance, prompts, and advice is conveyed, which results in peaceful conduct and contentment in a family dynamic. ‘O le gagana, e a’oa’o ai, a’oa’i ai, e faatonu ma faapoto ai’ (Language can teach, discipline, guide and make one wise).

But the spirit of cooperation to advance a Samoan household is a post most vital, so that no one person or group is placed highly above the other. This is not to undermine the importance of the rankings of the people in the household, but to help facilitate peace. But a reminder for us when we come across troubled waters can be taken from the Bible, “A gentle answer turns away wrath”, and “… but if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”.

Another important aspect of the Samoan family dynamic can be summarized with the saying, “ia fesili Mulimai ia Muamai” (Let those who came last seek guidance from those who came before), and it goes hand in hand with the sentiment that the respect one has for their elders will grant them many favourable years. This can be a definition for another post in a Fale Samoa: respect. Within the dynamic of a Samoan family, the parents and elders are the leaders of their children, similarly, Matai (village chiefs) are leaders of the extended family. The heads of these relationships are responsible for steering their family to success and prosperity, because as another Samoan saying goes, ‘E afua mai mauga manuia o nuu’ (prosperity and opulence flow from the mountaintops).

Strengthening the posts of our Fale is not a one-time job, nor is it a job for just one person. Instead, it takes many hands, hands of the entire household, with responsibilities extending to our mothers, our daughters, and our sons. But it is up to the leaders of the household to guide and pilot the household to happiness, wealth and prosperity, staying away from the ideology of ‘Do as I say, not as I do.”

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When using language as a means to strengthen the posts of your house, keep in mind this one last Samoan saying, “O upu e faasa’oina ai, o upu foi e faasesēina ai” (Words can guide you, but words can also misguide you).

Ia manuia le fa’amanatuina o le Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa!

Happy Samoan Language Week!

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