ASCC Samoan Studies celebrates the culture
The faculty and staff of the Samoan Studies Institute (SSI), along with their current students, celebrated the Samoa culture and its facility for adaptation during Samoa Day 2015 on Thursday, March 20, at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC).
A large, appreciative audience of students, parents and interested members of the public joined the SSI and the Students Association for Faasamoa (SAFF) for an hour long series of demonstrations, arts and crafts, and entertainment that highlighted the event’s theme of, “Reflecting on the past, looking into the future.”
Following the opening remarks and prayer from SSI faculty member Alofa Nu’usila, the audience was invited to view a number of displays taking place simultaneously in the ASCC falesamoa. These included a detailed demonstration of ceremonial kava preparation, application of designs to material using the elei method, wood carving, weaving and decorating of mats, rugs and fans, and methods of both cooking food and serving it on trays woven from the coconut leaf. Audience members took the opportunity to observe practitioners first hand, ask questions, and even participate if they wished in the activities being demonstrated.
Having been given ample time to observe each demonstration, the audience was next treated to the entertainment portion of Samoa Day as the falesamoa was cleared for a performance by the SAFF. Some 40-plus members strong, and accompanied by live singing, instruments and percussion, the SAFF showcased yet again why their songs and dances have made them a mainstay at cultural events in American Samoa and beyond for the last several years. Their Samoa Day performance also served as a warm-up for the SAFF’s audition the following week to be part of this year’s Flag Day festivities. Following the SAFF performance, SSI Programs Coordinator Elisaia Mailo gave the closing remarks to thank the audience for joining the Institute and its students for the event, and to encourage them to keep alive the resilient spirit of the Samoan culture.
“Learning, practicing, and teaching is the process which allows for cultures to perpetuate,” SSI Director Mrs. Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila reflected following the successful event’s conclusion. “Cultural people must allow for adaptation of ideas in order for their cultures to stay alive. All the demonstrations that were given today highlighted the adaptive and adoptive nature of faasamoa. For example, the weaving of mats involves traditional methods but we add new designs. Mrs. Fauolo-Manila also pointed to the evolution of popular dishes to illustrate how adaptation comes naturally to Samoa culture. “Samoan koko is now commonly mixed with rice nowadays,” she offered as an example, “sua ta'i remains the same but the materials we use are a replacement of coconut, and we use brown sugar for faausi, and so forth.”
Mrs. Fauolo-Manila emphasized that participation in an event like Samoa Day provides students with a perspective not only on traditions, but also on cultural changes. “Students experience the processes of making things like mats, paluava, sua ta'i, and more,” she said, “which allows them to observe firsthand how our traditions can incorporate the methods and resources we’ve always had with those that have come with modernity.”
ASCC students have long evidenced a strong interest in classes on Samoan culture, which has enabled the former Samoan Studies Department to evolve into the Samoan Studies Institute during the past decade. “SSI has been fortunate in that its numbers of students have been consistent and we have been able to produce a Samoan Studies major for almost every graduation since 2008,” reflected Mrs. Fauolo-Manila. “Really, we continue to go the extra mile with events like Samoa Day because of student interest. It could start off with an interest in something very particular, like dancing for example, and then when a student experiences other aspects of the faasamoa, they will choose to either pick Samoan Studies as their major or include it in their double major.”
For more information on the Samoan Studies Institute, visit the ASCC web site at: www.amsamoa.edu.