Keeping Culture Alive in Samoa
Samoa recently came to the international spotlight, not because of its national rugby team but for a devastating cyclone which swept through the capital Apia in December 2012. It was reported in the media that many people were affected and their gardens and homes were destroyed by very strong winds and flooding of major rivers. Today, the same place is bustling with people and business. It is hard to imagine that the same place underwent a tragic period in the last few weeks. An explanation to that is the resilience and spirit of the people of Samoa which have very strong traditional ties based on family lineages and their knowledge about the environment.
Faosiomaga Le Fatino – ICH in the Samoan Language
Samoa has had a very rich cultural and historical setting in the center of Pacific. Samoan people are proud custodians of a colorful and significant tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). They are a very peaceful and friendly community as is evident by their smiles and acts of kindness to any visitors. Samoa is currently in the process of ratifying the ICH Convention adopted by UNESCO in 2003. But before this Convention can be implemented, Samoa needs to undergo a lot of capacity building, coordination and preparation.
Following the ICH Ratification Workshop held in Apia last year, the ICH Convention was translated into the Samoan language. Samoan words for ICH have been found, namely, Faosiomaga Le Fatino.
Further, Samoa has successfully completed ICH Implementation Workshop held from 11th to the 15th February at the headquarters of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) in Apia funded under the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust.
The Workshop was opened by Mr Matafeo Falana’ipupu Tanielu Dan Aiafi, CEO of MESC. Present were Dr Sue Vize, Officer-in-Charge of the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States, Mr Kazumasa Shibuta, and Counselor of the Japanese Embassy in New Zealand. The two UNESCO facilitators of the Workshop were Ms Noriko Aikawa and Mr Anthony Parak.
Community-based Inventorying Exercise at Solosolo Village
The Workshop drew a number of people with diverse backgrounds in the field of cultural heritage in Samoa. From the government side, representatives included officers from Samoa National Museum, National Archives, Ministry of Commerce and Labor, Ministry of Women and Social Development, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa Law Reform Commission, Samoa Qualification Authority, Samoa Tourism Authority. NGO representatives included the Samoa Voyagers Society, Tiapapata Art Center, Tatau Association and the Samoan Arts Council. ICH custodians and community members at Solosolo village were also present at the Workshop.
Several important topics were presented for discussions among participants. These topics were; key concepts of the convention, community participation, identification and inventorying, ICH and sustainable development, safeguarding measures, institutions and policies, nominations and consent forms, awareness raising and international cooperation and assistance.
The highlight of the Workshop was a half day trip to Solosolo Village for the inventory practical training. The focus was on the knowledge and skills on mat weaving and the customs and traditions requiring the use of the fine one called Ie toga which is used for very special occasions for Samoa’s extended family system.
A Way Forward
At the end of the Workshop the participants produced a number of recommendations and strategies that need to be further developed into action plans for the ICH safeguarding in the country. It was agreed that some ICH elements were in need of urgent safeguarding not only in terms of related skills and knowledge but also materials to be used notably plants and forest resources. The Workshop took a positive note of the ongoing programmes for the ICH safeguarding in Samoa such as the Fine Mats Festival and qualification for ICH custodians, and recommended to strengthen inter-ministerial coordination through the newly established ICH National Committee. The Workshop participants called for enhanced awareness raising on the importance of ICH and its transmission through public-private partnership and with use of ICT and social media.
The workshop was concluded by the Minister for MESC, Hon. Magele Mauiliu Magele. It was decided that the community-based inventorying workshop will take place at Savaii Island in October 2013.
By Anthony Parak Krond, Conservator and Researcher (Cultural Heritage), PNG National Museum and Art Gallery