‘I pray in Samoan now’ - how Samoans in New Zealand are keeping their culture alive

The Minister for Pacific Peoples has opened Samoa Language week, but warns the language needs to be nurtured, or is at risk of being lost.

This year’s theme is Fa’aauau le Folauga i le Va’a o Tautai, which means "Continue the Voyage with Competent Wayfinders of the Ocean".

"This reflects the journey of the language, revitalisation and maintenance", says Aupito William Sio, "as well as recognising the importance of having the right tools, good leadership skills, relationship and the correct medium". ​

Aupito says sustaining Pacific languages is even more important as populations spread overseas. 

“With more people living in the diaspora than in the islands, the future of gagana  Samoa depends on how well it is maintained in Aotearoa New Zealand."

Just under half, or forty-eight percent, of New Zealand's Pacific population has Samoan heritage, and is the fastest growing Pacific population in New Zealand, 

Despite Samoa being the second most spoken language in Auckland, but PMN Samoa presenter Lorenzo Kaisara says the language is being lost in gradual changes.  

“Even Samoan-born parents are now talking in English to each other at home. So how can our kids follow our examples if they’re seeing us talking in igilisi?”

“We are the guardians, we have to pass down the knowledge, the understanding, all the values that we have.

“If we can’t do anything about it now, we will lose our culture and we will lose our language.”

​Keeping it real

Communities across the country are encouraging people learn and speak words in Samoan, with events and workshops across the country. 

"Instead of praying in English, I pray in Samoan, just to keep in touch," says Niu FM host Aaron Ryan.

Ryan, who has links to Safotu and Vaimoso village, says it’s the little things like using a few words here and there that really help to keep his Samoan alive.

“Just wake up in the morning, say talofa, or malo le soifua.

​“Watching random documentaries”, he laughs, “anything you can.”​

Ryan went to a predominantly palagi high school, but says there was a strong Samoan culture there that helped him connect to his island roots, along with going with church. 

Dance has been another way Ryan has been able to participate with his culture, including teaching a sasa workshop this week at the Mangere Arts Centre. 

“Dancing has saved my culture, meeting people and surrounding myself with people that embrace and are so passionate about the Samoan culture.”


Photo source  PMN News Caption: Niu FM host Aaron Ryan.