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Pride shows in language and dance

Masterton Intermediate School’s performance. PHOTOS/TOM TAYLOR

Story by Tom Taylor

The streets of Masterton were busy on Wednesday night with crowds flocking to a Fiafia Night in celebration of Samoan Language Week.

Cultural group ‘Siva with Vanz’ hosted the event at Crossway Church Community Hall to celebrate the past, present, and future of Samoan people.

Lakeview School pupils performing.

Joining the group were dance performances by Polynesian groups from Masterton Intermediate School and Lakeview School, Makoura College cultural group, Crossway Youth Group, Samoan AOG youth group.

Organiser Melnissa Faumui began preparations for the event seven weeks ago.

“Most importantly it was to get our children really involved in their culture.”

Although Samoan churches helped people to connect with their culture, Faumui said there was a gap for a dance-focused group.

Faumui’s daughter, Levonia, graduated from Whitireia tertiary institute, having studied performing arts. However, Faumui said she had struggled to find a job that would suit her.

Faumui was part of a group called Pacific Voices, where she and others in the community met to talk about how to improve culture within their young people.

One of the members had come up with the idea of forming a Raise Up crew at Masterton YMCA.

“I sort of went, okay, I’m going to do a dancing group,” she said.

Levonia [Vanz] became choreographer of the group ‘Siva with Vanz’ and would go on to teach young people how to siva, or dance, in the proper Samoan way.

“It’s not just about dancing, but about ‘why are we doing this dance’?” Faumui said.

“Just learning the meaning, the values, of dance; learning the protocols of dance, and when to express yourself, and when to calm down and do it the right way.”

Samoan Language Week was scheduled each year to coincide with Samoan Independence Day on June 1.

This year’s theme was “Poupou le lotoifale, ola manuia le anofale”: “Strengthen the posts of your house, for all to thrive.”

The theme promoted the concept of language being important for the foundations of people’s wellbeing.

In her role as head teacher at Una Williams Kindergarten, Faumui spoke fluent Samoan to the children. She said this was important because it gave children pride and confidence in their language.

“This is the only place where children can come from a young age and say, ‘It’s okay – there’s Samoan at home and Samoan at kindergarten as well’… I am a firm believer that your culture and your language is your blessing from God.”

That pride was plain to see on the faces of the crowd as they sang the Samoan National Anthem to kick off the night’s festivities.

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