Samoa Language Week – Embracing Culture on Campus

Waikato University Samoa Students Association Ava Ceremony during SLW 2021. 📷 @aferetiphotography

Samoa Language Week (SLW) has come to an end after a long week of activities and events held throughout Aotearoa to embrace Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa.

This year’s theme was ‘Poupou le Lotoifale. Ola manuia le anofale’ a Samoan proverb that relates to strengthening the foundation of a fale, to ensure safety and security of all within it. 

Samoa Students’ Associations at various Universities across New Zealand celebrated SLW with the traditional ava ceremony to begin the week, and a range of cultural activities including faigalotu and faafiafiaga, preparing Samoan food, singing and dancing.

Auckland University Ava Ceremony, 📸 : Pacific at the University of Auckland.

Explaining this years theme, President of the University of Auckland’s Samoan Students’ Association (UASSA) Valasi Faletui says, “When you’re building a fale it can’t have a weak foundation or posts. This is the same for the foundations of our families, schools and churches that play an important role in strengthening Gagana Samoa;

“The Samoan language is important for the foundations of our overall well being”, she said.

University of Auckland Samoan Students’ Association.

“The executive team of the association each year plan events to provide not only the Samoan community within the University the experience to embrace culture on campus but also a means for non-Samoan students to learn the culture,” she said. 

“Through this we highlight not only the Samoan language but also encourage our different cultural associations to embrace their respective cultures and language,” she added. 

UASSA has a steady intake of 40-50 students. Each year the number fluctuates depending on the events that the executive team organises for Samoan Language Week.

“This year we were able to see an increase of students who attended our celebrations – not only Samoan students but also different Pacific students from the wider community of the University both as attendees and participants,” said the President of UASSA.

Across to Waikato University WUSSA Executive member Daniel Limā, 19, says it has been a full-on week for their association, opening with an ava ceremony and ending with a night of cultural performances and a Samoan feast of traditional food.

Brian Telefoni Lima – Commerce student of Waikato University giving the welcoming speech at the ava ceremony. 📷 @aferetiphotography

“The week has brought us together, not only the Samoan students but also other Pacific students,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter where we go for schooling, we will always remember our culture, our people and our way of life and speaking the language is a big part of that identity,” he added.

Members of WUSSA during Samoa Language Week 2021. 📷 @aferetiphotography

In the South Island to the University of Otago, an 18 year old student Aruna Wallwork-Tuala in her first year studying Health Science told Samoa Global News that celebrating SLW has made her appreciate who she is as a Samoan. 

“Being Samoan is such a huge part of my self-identity but I’ve never really noticed until now. Moving to New Zealand has made me appreciate where I’m from and reminded me of the rich history that I represent,” she said.

Aruna Wallwork-Tuala, middle, pictured with her Pacific youth sisters 📸 : Asia Pacific Housing Forum.

“This week I learnt that the Samoan language carries so much culture in each word, and to be able to speak and share the dialect of my ancestors who sacrificed so much for us to be where we are today is truly humbling”.

Ms Tuala says being away from Samoa to attend University in New Zealand has made her appreciate her language and culture more.

“Living in Samoa made me a little indifferent towards the Samoan language but now whenever I do hear Samoan spoken, whether it be at the university or just around town, I feel a sense of comfort and nostalgia.., this is what home sounds like,” she shares. 

A second year student studying Engineering in Auckland University, Patrick Allen Levy had also shared his views on SLW with Samoa Global News. 

“I think it’s important that we consistently communicate in Samoan with others to keep our knowledge of Samoa as well as the language fresh and polished,” he said.

“This helps solidify my identity as a Samoan in a country that is not my own,” said Mr Levy.

Jaleen Tupai