Samoan Language Week brings pride in language and identity
Samoan is a complex language which means we’re always learning – even those of us who are fluent speakers are constantly deepening our knowledge of Gagana Samoa. – Toleafoa Mark Esekielu
Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa – Samoa Language Week 2023 – gave the Le Va team and our Wise Group colleagues an opportunity to showcase and learn more about the beautiful language and culture of Samoa.
Celebrations at Harakeke House throughout the week began with a welcome and official opening led by Taitu’uga Mataafa-Komiti, Le Va’s project manager for the Atu-Mai violence prevention programme. She gave a short presentation on Samoan history, culture and language and a fun lesson on how to pronounce some Samoan phrases.
Pastor Taeao Napo, project coordinator at Le Va, opened the gathering with lotu (prayer) and pese (hymns). Project coordinator Jim Stretton entertained guests with an energetic demonstration of different styles of Samoan siva (dance).
To end the week, the Le Va team brought together staff from all the Wise Group entities at Harakeke House once again to reflect on the week and enjoy a taumafataga (shared meal). The refreshments, which included koko alaisa, panikeke, and falaoa, were prepared by project coordinator and Samoan chef extraordinaire, John Apelu Crouch.
Toleafoa Mark Esekielu, Le Va’s senior manager for mental health and addiction, said, “It’s important to acknowledge that we are all on a journey in terms of our language. Samoan is a complex language which means we’re always learning – even those of us who are fluent speakers are constantly deepening our knowledge of Gagana Samoa.”
In the 2018 census, 182,721 people identified as being ethnically Samoan, making them the largest group of Pacific peoples living in Aotearoa. After English and Te Reo Māori, Samoan was the third most widely spoken language in New Zealand, with 86,403 people (2 per cent of the population) able to speak it.
Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Barbara Edmonds launched Samoan Language Week nationally online with a video focusing on this year’s theme, ‘Mitamita i lau gagana, maua’a lou fa’asinomaga’, meaning ‘Be proud of your language and grounded in your identity’.