Western Leader : January 10th 2012
www.aucklandnow.co.nz Tuesday, January 10, 2012 connected Locally The latest local news and information -- anywhere, anytime In print & online at www.westernleader.co.nz Use your smart phone to connect to our website. Find us on Follow us on Print Tablet Phone PC Fa'asamoa dilemma Talking chief: A Samoan orator makes a speech on behalf of his family in the background during a funeral. His staff and the fly brush over his shoulder are symbols of his seniority as a matai. The Orator, right: The main character played by Faafiaula Sagote in the Samoan film The Orator--OleTulafale by director Tusi Tamasese. The film was up for nomination at this year's Academy Awards for best foreign language film. Forefather, left: Renowned Samoan talking chief Lauaki was the first leader of the Mau Movement which was a non- violent protest for Samoan independence from colonial rule in the early 1900s. He was exiled to Saipan in 1909. Young Samoans in New Zealand face a struggle to balance traditional values with an expanding knowledge of the world in their search for cultural identity. Reporter Esther Lauaki is a first generation New Zealander of Samoan descent. She speaks to young Islanders who are deciding whether to follow in the footsteps of their fathers as matai or create a new path for their lives. Visit www.western leader.co.nz to watch an interview with Tamasese about The Orator -- O le Tulafale. YOUNG Samoan men raised in the ways of their forefathers are born into a life of service to the church, family and community. The pinnacle of that service comes when they take on a matai or chief title in the family. Names are passed down through generations of men and sometimes women. A person who inherits a matai title is called by that name as a mark of respect which is central to the tra- dition. Respect is paid to those who hold status including people older than yourself, matai, ministers, politicians, doctors or teachers. Today's generation of Samoans, in the islands and in New Zealand, often defy this unquestioning demand for respect as they gain higher education and adopt different values. Dallas Fasi, 30, is a mar- keting executive from Mt Wellington who studied at Waikato University and was delegated a matai name from his mother's village in 2005. But he never wanted it. I feel embarrassed when people call me by my chief title because I feel like I haven't done anything to deserve it. It was given to me because there was a surplus of titles and not enough men to take them. So the first- born sons of families in my village were given them. I don't live in Samoa and I don't send money so I think it's kind of plastic for me to have one.'' The responsibility that comes with being a matai puts young people off taking up the tradition, he says. You have to understand what's going on back home in the islands. We've seen our families suffer when they have to give money because a church minister's house needs to be built or someone needs money for a fundraiser. Matai are the ones who make all those calls and handle all that. I'm not interested, it's not what I want for my family in the future,'' he says. Writer and director Tusi Tamasese highlights the issue in his latest film The Orator -- O le Tulafale. It impressed critics on the Fes- tival circuit this year and hit theatres in October. The film follows the life of Saili, a dwarf from a remote and traditional village, who is forced to face his fears and seek the right to speak up for those he loves, protect his land and family. It's about finding the cour- age to speak, to live and stand up for the ones you love,'' Tamasese says. The main character struggles to find the confi- dence to stand among the vil- lage chiefs who underesti- mate him because of his inadequacies. The same issues apply to the new generation of Samoans in their pursuit of cultural identity. Some say they are reluc- tant to become a chief because they are Kiwi -- born or raised, don't speak the Samoan language or weren't taught the essence of their culture from birth. Kirifi Asofitu, 22, has lived in west Auckland since he emigrated from Samoa when he was seven years old. He is proud of his culture and would consider carrying a matai title but the life he lives here is very different to his cousins of the same age back home in the islands. The Unitec student still speaks fluent Samoan but has missed out on learning the old ways'' and therefore shies away from the concept. Back home the boys all have to work in the ma'u- maga (plantation) every day. If they don't work a normal job they have to work in the plantation. They wake up in the morning and they have to do the cooking, usually the umu and feed the pigs. It's a hard life. Not like my life here in New Zealand. When they are older, they have to step up and take care of the family more. They learn fa'asamoa [traditional values]. Sometimes my uncle gets some of the boys from our vil- lage and teaches them speeches,'' he says. You learn the history of your vil- lage and your family tree so you know how different matai titles fit in, how important they are and who they belong to. If I don't know that stuff, who would listen to me?'' The Orator screens at Grey Lynn Pah on March 15. See www.moviesinparks.co.nz.
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