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Winners awarded in ASCC Samoan language writing competition

The three finalists in Lau Gagana! Tuvaaga Tusiga Tala Faasamoa, a writing competition in the Samoan language organized by the ASCC Samoan Studies Institute are (left to right) second place winner Andrea Faalei'ua, first place winner Dorothy Mana'o, and third place winner Oneata Melody R. Soi.  [Photo: J. Kneubuhl]

            The Samoan Studies Institute (SSI) at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) held an awards ceremony on Tuesday, November 1st, to recognize the top three finalists in its Samoan language writing competition Lau Gagana! Tauvaga Tusiga Tala Faasamoa. ASCC student Ms. Dorothy Mana’o authored the piece that took top honors, with fellow students at the College Ms. Andrea Faalei’ua and Ms. Oneata Melody R. Soi taking second and third place respectively.

            Now in its second year, the writing competition attracted 42 entries this time, a dramatic jump as compared to only eight last year. Ms. Mana’o submitted a piece titled “Mafatiaga o le Alofa,” which focuses on the way people respond to love, and examines how even the love of God may be marred by how love is shown at home. In the story, a girl encourages her friend to still believe in love, especially the love of Father God, despite what she has described as betrayal by her own father.  

Judges for this year’s competition included SSI Director Mrs. Okenaisa Fauolo-Manilia, Samoan Studies Department Chair Evile Feleti, Samoan Studies instructors Alofa Nuusila and Tasia Talamoni, Language Translator Tamari Mulitalo-Cheung and Senior Researcher Teleiai Ausage. Describing the general quality of the submissions for the competition, Mrs. Fauolo-Manila reflected on how creative writing in the Samoan language continues to evolve.

“Compared to more than 10 years ago when the writing was still more oral influenced, there is a bigger change greatly influenced by having rubrics where students are given criteria to write towards,” she said. “However there is still a lot of work to be done. Writing in Samoan is a skill to be honed on like writing English. When there is more practice and more reading, there is bound to be improvement.”

            When asked about the general topics of the pieces submitted, Mrs. Fauolo-Mania said she was impressed with how most of the writers keep their focus both true-to-life and down-to-earth. “There were a lot of close-to-home experiences written about,” she recalled, “and a lot of laughing at themselves, putting a closure to some deep experience just by writing about it, dealing with broken families, love and relationships, real-life experiences as a young man or woman serving families and communities, and sometimes culture shock and experiences of living outside Samoa, or Samoans born off island returning and living in Samoa.”

            The top three submissions for the competition and many of the runners-up will be read on-air during the SSI’s weekly radio show Faasamoa Pea, which is broadcast every Saturday morning from 9:00 to 9:15 a.m. on local station KSBS-FM.  Stories that are considered by SSI faculty member and Samoa Pea host Alofa Nuusila to be appropriate and relevant for the general public, and especially children, will be shared on-air, provided that the author of the piece gives his/her permission. ASCC students, whether part of the competition or not, regularly read their original work in the Samoan language on-air as part of Faasamoa Pea.

Promoting the continuity of Samoan culture, tradition, language and heritage aligns with the mission of ASCC in general and the SSI in particular. The SSI takes an inter-disciplinary, comprehensive educational approach that focuses on four major areas: Academics; Community and Cultural Extension programs; Research and Publication; and Samoan Language Translation.

“In our humble opinion, having a writing competition is one way to promote faasamoa,” said Mrs. Fauolo-Manila. “We have been complimented by the general public on our Faasamoa Pea radio program, and even approached by some elders asking if we could have their stories read on-air. Some community members even asked if we could open our writing competition to the general public. All of this interest has helped us continue our writing competition into its second year, and it is our intention for this to be an annual event. “

For more information on the Samoan Studies Institute, see the ASCC Catalog, available online at, or call the SSI at 699-9155, extension 347. The SSI expresses their gratitude to KSBS-FM for their support of the program Faasamoa Pea.