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Schools swell with Samoan pride

Festivities at Lakeview School included a lesson on how to peel green bananas. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The Samoan language flowed in song and speech through schools and on stage this month, as the community combined to celebrate Samoan culture in Wairarapa.

Food was cooked underground in an umu – the Samoan version of a hāngī – at Lakeview School in Masterton, which hosted several other schools for Samoan Language Week.

A two-day festival opened on June 1 with a Samoan Independence Day celebration, a Faigalotu [prayer] service, a flag-raising ceremony, and an Ava ceremony [the sharing of a ceremonial beverage].

A speech competition saw primary and secondary students vocalise their Pasifika heritage, by reciting poetry, telling their family story, or singing a song – all in Samoan, organiser Melnissa Faumui said.

“It is important our young people have the courage to speak Samoan outside their own families and churches. That helps their elders and the new Samoan people coming here – our young people can act as interpreters.”

Wairarapa schools combined on the evening of June 2 for a Fiafia Night – a Samoan cultural spectacular which showcased the schools’ Pasifika groups on stage at the Masterton War Memorial Stadium. Groups from Lakeview, St Patrick’s and Masterton Intermediate Schools and Chanel, Mākoura, Rathkeale and Wairarapa Colleges all participated.

Cultural groups Siva with Varnz and Selected Arrows bolstered the show with passionate and polished performances, while the audience at the free concert was offered treats such as koko [Samoan hot chocolate] and panikeke [round pancakes].

It was the third year the community had celebrated Samoan language and culture with a festival, Faumui said.

The theme for this year was “Mitamita i lau gagana, maua’a i lou fa’asinomaga”, which means “Be proud of your language, grounded in your identity”.

“As a proud Samoan teacher, I want to extend this [annual celebration] to other parts of Wairarapa, like Carterton, Greytown and Featherston,” Faumui said.

It was Lakeview School’s second time hosting the Masterton event. The school sponsored the umu, which demonstrated the traditional Samoan way of cooking. Food was prepared and served by Samoan church ministers and parents from all schools involved.

The event was supported by Trust House, Masterton Trust Lands Trust and Pasifika o Wairarapa Trust. Faumui thanked fellow organisers Mamele Lio, Fatalevave Tiomai, Eseta Setu and Peilua Sione Pule, and every parent who helped from the combined schools.

There were about 2000 people of Pasifika heritage in Wairarapa, the largest group being of Samoan descent, Faumui said.

“The Wairarapa community is a peaceful one, and it reminds me of Samoa, including the rain.

“I moved here from Auckland – the city was so busy, but coming to Wairarapa made me feel refreshed. Everyone knows everybody – it is like living in a Samoan village.”

Events planned for later this year include a sports day with combined churches and schools playing volleyball and kilikiti [Samoan cricket].

The winners of the speech competition were: Merina Tafa – primary school [Lakeview School].
Faith Lagolago – 12-14 years old [Lakeview School].
Lotia Lio [Chanel College], Pepe Iona [Rathekeale College], and John Paulo [Wairarapa College] – third equal for 15 years and over.

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