ASCC-SAFF Performs at Teuila Festival
September 11, 2014
By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer
Over the last few years, the Student Association for Faasamoa (SAFF) has established itself as one of the strongest student organizations at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC). Overseen by the Samoan Studies Institute (SSI), the SAFF promotes Samoan culture, arts and values while also providing its members with an academic support group, particularly in the area Samoan Studies. While membership may vary from semester to semester, the SAFF has consistently showcased its home pride, discipline and enthusiasm through cultural performances on numerous special occasions here at home as well as overseas at the most recent Festival of the Pacific Arts held in the Solomon Islands two years ago.
Upon receiving approval to participate in this year’s Teuila Festival, the SSI gave this semester’s SAFF members the option of traveling to the Independent State of Samoa for the event, and 24 of them chose to make the trip. With each student having secured parental permission and made arrangements with their instructors to make up for time away from classes, the SSI used funds from previous group performances to cover travel expenses for the available SAFF members and four SSI staff. Each student need only to contribute $40 towards the collective meal budget.
During their visit to Samoa, the SAFF students enjoyed the opportunity not only to represent ASCC during their festival performances, but also to observe and practice the cultural traditions their organization seeks to exemplify. “The trip was organized with the students responsible for all of its aspects,” said SSI Director Okenaisa Fauolo-Manila, who accompanied the students. “From morning and evening devotions, cooking and serving our meals, to overseeing our luggage and equipment and so forth, this gave them an opportunity to learn the importance of va fealoa’i and its application.” With the group lodged at the Transit Motel, about an hour’s drive from Apia, they quickly adjusted to both living with each other 24/7 as well as knowing the correct behavior for any given situation. For example, when relatives of the malaga visited with food or simply to show support, the SAFF members followed Samoan protocol with formal acknowledgements.
“I had learned a lot of new things, not only educational, but physical and spiritual,” said student Nu’u Mata’utia. “I was able to cooperate and work as part of a team while we were on the trip.” Theresa Ieremia said she “learned to be patient with the other SAFF members,” while Harriette Manase observed “how disciplined and well behaved our SAFF members are.”The SAFF members similarly impressed Outreach Coordinator Elisaia Ma’ilo, who joined the SSI staff in spring 2014 and came along on the Teuila trip. “Being a part of this trip really broadened their understanding of what it means to be a Samoan,” Ma’ilo reflected. “It's much more than just identifying with a certain cultural aspect. It's being a well-rounded, well-versed, well-mannered, well-taught Samoan grounded in the intricacy of our fa'asamoa. They bonded with each other and basked in the traditions of our ancestors.”
The ASCC group was scheduled to perform three times during the festival, but they impressed the organizers enough to receive an invitation to give an additional performance as part what Fauolo-Manila describes as “the best of Samoa showcase extravaganza.” When not performing, the SAFF members had time for activities such as a historical tour led by the SSI’s Tele’iai Christian Ausage, which enhanced their insight into the connection between Samoa’s past and present. Faleosalafai Tipa expressed appreciation that the SAFF “had the opportunity to visit sites where the history of our ancestors took place, and learn how many of the matai titles came about in our culture.” As a result of the tour, student Mekelian Tia said he “better understood legends and old stories of Samoa. Not only that, but I also learned proverbs that I can use when I speak Samoan.”
As much as the SAFF members enjoyed sharing their talents with the Teuila Festival audiences, SSI Director Fauolo-Manila observed that the trip as a whole provided an opportunity for the students to not only connect with the roots of their culture, but also to reinforce the values that make ASCC unique. “We put into practice the ASCC core values of respect for traditions, culture, spiritual beliefs, and diversity,” she said. “Each SAFF student also experienced the lifelong skills of respecting each other, collaboration and cooperation as part of being a responsible ASCC student with a positive self-concept.”
For more information on the Student Association for Faasamoa, contact the Samoan Studies Institute at ASCC at 699-9155.