Samoan Artist Focused on His Art

Journalist, Shalveen Chand, of the Samoa Observer recently wrote about how for the last three weeks, Poto Tapumanaia has been a regular sight at the seawall facing Apia Harbor.

He has been making a canoe out of driftwood he fished out of the harbor. He has gathered the attention of an art collector who has offered him money for the finished canoe and he has agreed to sell it.


Apia Harbor, Samoa. Photo by Brandon Oswald

Mr Tapumanaia, 49, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It is a mental disorder which he needs medication for but his art keeps him busy and focused. “I will be very open about by medical condition. I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and yes it has impacted me in life but I like to believe that keeping busy with art helps me deal with this condition,” he said.

“I realize that most Samoans are not able to realise the mental health illnesses are diseases and can be treated and there is medication for it. I also have high blood pressure and diabetes, people will think that these are diseases while schizophrenia is not.”

Last week, he pulled more driftwood from the sea. These would make the outrigger for the canoe and give it balance. “Carving and art is a family trait, I have a uncle who was teaching Samoan art at the National University and I see art in every day life,” Mr Tapumanaia said.

“So when this driftwood was hitting the seawall in Apia, others would have looked at it as just a piece of log but not for me. For me this was a canoe and a way to turn that log into money. I have agreed on the offer that was made and I hoping to complete this work in another week.”

Mr Tapumanaia will take the canoe for a paddle just to test it after it is completed. There will be no sails and the canoe would resemble the paddling canoes used by fisher folks in yesteryears.

As an artist he is hoping that young Samoans take art especially to do with the cultures and traditions of Samoa.

He believes that this is the way to keeping the history of Samoa alive. So if you are strolling along the seawall and come across Mr Tapumanaia hard at work, do say Talofa and Manuia Le Aso.

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