ASCC SAFF selected for Festival of the Pacific Arts
The Samoan Studies Institute (SSI) at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) established the Students’ Association for Faasamoa (SAFF) two semesters ago to assist students in promoting an awareness of their Samoan heritage and to ensure a continuity of the different aspects of their culture in their academic lives.
The SAFF members recently learned that all of their background in Samoan culture will come into play when they join the group who will represent the Territory at the 11th Festival of the Pacific Arts that will take place in the Solomon Islands this summer.
“We feel most honored that American Samoa Arts Council’s Committee Members have chosen us,” said Nunuimalo Apisaloma Toleafoa, who co-advises the SAFF with SSI Director Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila and fellow instructors Teleiai Christian Ausage and Sia Achica, and also choreographs their cultural performances. Asked what the thought made the SAFF performers stand out among the others auditioning, Nunuimalo credited their balance between discipline and creativity. “It was the fine tuning of the dances we performed,” he said. “I reminded the students of the importance of uniformity, and that both the girls’ and boys’ performances needed to be evenly strong. Also, I experimented with putting together something different.”
Twenty-five members strong, the SAFF includes students from many different classes within the SSI. As its guiding principles, the Society holds to the values of alofa (love), tautua (service), faaaloalo (respect), feagaiga (a covenant between siblings and others) and usita’i (discipline).
“These all contribute to the understanding of social relations and the character building essential to a Samoan identity,” said Nunuimalo. “These fundamental aspects of faasamoa are important in any context. The group’s activities, such as this performance for the Arts Council, help towards their retention of Samoan values as well as their personal growth. This is also an exceptional way to apply hands-on learning. Throughout our semester, the students have not only learned to perform the siva, but also participated in ‘ava ceremonies at recent events like the Oceania Customs Conference and the welcoming of the WASC visiting team to ASCC. Students learn how to maintain aspects of their culture such as alofa, tautua and faaaloalo during these activities.”
With the festival still two months away, some details remain uncertain, such as what kind of performance the SAFF will give, and even whether all of its members will be able to make the trip. “We will be working closely together with members of the Arts Council,” explained Nunuimalo, “and I hope all of our group will go, since they’ve worked so hard.” Mindful that some parents of SAFF members might be unsure whether to permit their sons or daughters to participate, he asks that they consider the educational value of attending the festival. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said, “and it’s a chance to learn from our cousins around the Pacific about their cultures. Also, our students will be able to share our unique Samoan culture. We have a golden opportunity to experience the meaning of cultural diversity and to gain an added appreciation of being Samoan by representing our Territory at the festival.”
The Festival of the Pacific Arts, hosted by American Samoa in 2008, has been held every four years since 1972, and brings together artists and cultural practitioners from around the Pacific region for two weeks. It is the largest regional gathering in which Pacific peoples unite to enhance their respect for and appreciation of one another within the context of the changing Pacific. The 2012 festival will be the largest regional event ever hosted in the Solomon Islands, and is expected to include an estimated 2,500 performers, artists and cultural practitioners from 27 countries and territories in the Pacific region, plus thousands of visitors keen to be part of the festival.
The 27 Pacific Island Countries and Territories expected at the festival are American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Easter Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Guam (2016 Host), Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, this year’s host the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.