Photo Credit: 
Tina Mata'afa-Tufele
My little sister Moana and Mitamitaga O Samoa at the 2012 Samoan Heritage Week Festival, Ke'ehi Lagoon Park, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

SIVA SAMOA: Dancing ourselves into existence

(HONOLULU)--Today, Friday, May 15, 2015 is a pivotal day in the lives of Samoan and Pacific Island students in the state of Washington. Fa’afetai tele lava tamaiti o le A’oga Maualuga o Mount Rainier, mo le vala’aulia. It is indeed a high honor to receive your invitation to judge the First Annual Samoan Arts Competition hosted by Des Moines.

Students of Mount Rainier, Federal Way, Kennedy Catholic High School, Cascade Middle School, Pacific Middle School, Evergreen, Highline, Tyee and Sylvester High Schools – family obligations have kept me from attending your event. I apologize for my absence.

I’m Jersiah Tafia’s aunty and I’m a writer among a dancing Samoan family. I was born in Hawai’i and I grew up with Jersiah’s mom in Waipahu on the west side of O’ahu. We danced a whole lot in our youth. We fought a whole lot in our youth. Part of growing up in neighborhoods dubbed the ghettos of Waipahu – Aniani Place and the Pupuole area. My mom is a siva instructor and Jersiah’s mom was one of her students. For me: siva is life. There was no way around it. Neither was there any wanting to get around it. My siblings and I love to dance. We learned in the home.

Dancing in my family is as normal as breathing, cleaning the house, or driving a car. Dancing, perfecting moves, finding the perfect pese, getting the right motions, learning lyrics, our language, finding the perfect shells, leaves, feathers, string for a certain costume, all the while learning our language and of our history contained in pese Samoa.

There are so many things I love about our siva. The list goes on and on. My sisters and I, we danced every day as little girls – in between sweeping the house, dumping the trash, cooking, cleaning. We danced for church activities, fundraisers, campaign events, gatherings of all types, competitions, pageants—siva took us absolutely everywhere. My fondest childhood memories are wrapped up in dance— most especially Siva Samoa.

Three of my sisters danced professionally. My path led me to being a writer and eventually a journalist. Today my sisters are dance teachers to our children and have taught siva to our children and Samoan youth – in Florida, Amerika Samoa, Samoa and Hawai’i. I admire the innovative thinking of Jersiah Tafia and Leuea Loto—in using dance as a catalyst to effect positive change in academics among members of their Pacific Islander club. How the program expanded to unite students from nine schools in your home state – should not be downplayed. Hearty congratulations are in order for bringing everyone together for this Samoan arts competition.

In the words of Samoan Author/Novelist Albert Wendt: “We need to write, paint, sculpt, weave, dance, sing, and think ourselves into existence.”

I’m filled with pride in knowing our Siva Samoa and Pacific Arts are being celebrated in Des Moines, Washington. It started with stories of the We Are Samoa Festival hosted in Hawai’i. Like Jersiah’s mom, I danced in the We Are Samoa Festival too.

Be assured of our love, blessings and prayers from Hawai’i as you celebrate your Pacific roots during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States—through dance. All the world’s a stage. Today, it is yours.

Ia faamanuia le Atua.