Folauga a Samoa 1962 – 2012

 By Ian Wilson, of Juniper Films

New Zealand Samoans have been observing with pride this month the anniversary of their independence from New Zealand rule.

Many from the Wellington region journeyed to Apia to join in the celebrations, which included spectacular celebrations of Samoan culture.

Juniper Films has produced a special film — SAMOA – THE JOURNEY,’  Folauga a Samoa 1962 – 2012 — to honour the 50th anniversary. The first premiere took place in Samoa earlier this month– and the second is scheduled for Wellington non August 1. Here’s how the Samoan Observer recorded the event:

‘At midnight on the last day of 1961, every church bell in Samoa rang out to herald the first dawn of January 1962, Independence Day for Samoa.   So began that day, etched into the memory of many Samoans.Untitled

The original voice recording in 1960 at the United Nations Assembly New York of Samoa’s first Prime Minister, Fiame Mataafa Mulinu’u leads us into this celebratory film of the 50th Anniversary of Independence:

“Matou te talitonu, o lo matou lumana’i e au uma mai i lo matou tala faasolopito – o tupulaga ua tuana’i atu.

O se la’au e tuputupu malie a’e ua loloto ona a’a i le ‘ele’ele, e sili lenā ona   mafaia ona talitali afā, i lo se la’au e tupu tele vave.

E fa’apena lo matou malō fou; ua loloto lava ona a’a i la matou aganu’u, e tupu lemū ma ola fa’atatau i fesuisuia’iga o mea ma le taimi.”

Samoa’s proverbs

In that same year, at a Constitutional Convention of Samoan representatives on universal suffrage, Hon. Malietoa Tanumafili II makes reference to Samoan proverbial sayings:

“Just as a green stick cannot be broken,

Samoan custom us too vigorous to be disregarded in this generation. 

But the next generation will probably do something different,

just as every season a green stick is used to knock down the breadfruit.

And it is up to that generation to reshape the electoral system to suit themselves”

These sentiments echo down through time.  They set the tone of memory and mark Independence 1st of January 1962 forever.  The 50th Anniversary year is also a milestone in the history of the South Pacific where Samoa was the first nation to gain independence.

The March-Past on 1st of June becomes a thread throughout the film and sets out to capture the energy and pride that Samoans display on this very special anniversary.  The film includes the proclamation of Amnesty for some 35 prisoners and the Prime Minister’s subsequent address to the prisoners.   The amnesty underscores the ‘quality of mercy’ and redemption, so notable in the Samoan character, and recognised in the traditional ifoga.

Film honours heritage

samoa kavaSamoa – The Journey (Folauga a Samoa 1962 -2012) illustrates the rich cultural heritage of Samoa and returns to the many celebratory events of the first week in June at Tiafau Mulinu’u.   It also captures the spectacle and ceremonial presentations of gifts to Guests of Honour.

Many thousands came from all over Samoa to honour the flag and participate in the traditional Independence March Past.  And hundreds of Samoans from abroad plus many international guests came to share in the experience.  Highlights of the celebrations include the fautasi races, arrival of voyaging va’a, the candle-light service, concerts and official occasions.

The proverb for this 50th Anniversary becomes a metaphor for all sections of Samoan society coming together on their journey as a nation:


“Ua  sau  le  va‘a  na  tiu, ‘ae  tali  le  va‘a  na  tau,

o  lo‘o  mamaulago  i  le  va‘a  na  faoafolau”


Samoa – The Journey also reveals less well known corners of Samoa which highlight the nation’s close affinity with the sea and its strong communal life.

Music composed by Igelese Ete, reflects the voyaging motifs: the ocean, va’a, the sun and stars – and Samoa’s journey since 1962.   The Samoan New Zealand soprano, Marlena Devoe, who has just completed studies at the Wales Academy of Voice, sings the theme song based on the proverb.   The choir Fetu Ao, of Samoan/NZ singers, back the composition.

Some of the writers, academics and teachers who contributed essays for the book SAMOA’s JOURNEY 1962 -2012 – Aspects of History feature in the film.  They describe changes and progress since independence and bring into sharp focus how far Samoa has travelled in these years.   Education and Health are especially revealing, and the growth in infrastructure impressive.   In 1962 there were no wharves in the port, a rather rudimentary airport, a lack of good roads, no electricity nor telephones throughout most of the islands.

Achievements in the Arts range across the creative talents in the visual, literary, music and film disciplines.   When put together they form an impressive array of work, some of which allude to the traditional Samoan arts.

Victoria University lecturer ‘Ai’ono Le Tagaloa

‘Ai’ono Le Tagaloa and Tu’u’u Ieti describe their memories of early days.  ‘Ai’ono was in Wellington lecturing at Victoria University in 1962.  She was given the honour of mixing the ava for the Kingly ceremony to celebrate the occasion by Samoans living in the area.   It was done exactly according to Samoan custom in the Wellington Town Hall.  Tu’u’u Ieti recalls how he and all the village children crowded around the radio to listen to 2 AP on the ‘Big Day’.

It was the first time they had heard their new Samoan National Anthem instead of ‘God Save The Queen’.   The Prime Minister recalls how he left his village at the age of seven to go school in Apia.  There were no cars, and no roads – and ice cream was unknown. He travelled by fautasi to the nearest road and then by bus to Apia, all of which took nearly two days!  This puts the changes within 50 years firmly in perspective.

Of all the events in the celebrations, the fautasi races attract most attention and draw the largest crowds.   The races were hotly contested and in this 50th year, the winner was Segavao III, skippered by Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel.  Her captaincy of a fautasi and sailing skills were a first for women in the South Pacific.

The crucial treaty

The Treaty of Friendship between Samoa and New Zealand is given prominence in the film.   It was signed in 1962 on the 1st of August and has endured and been a bridge between the two nations.  Significantly, it is the only Treaty of Friendship for both nations.   New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key came for the anniversary of the Treaty held at Vailima.   He was accompanied but a large delegation of Samoan New Zealanders, politicians and VIPs.   Prime Minister Key was lavish in his praise of Samoa and his speeches are worthy of being kept for Samoans in the future.

Juniper Films archival footage from the 1972 celebrations reveal the sparkling new Maota Fono in the background.  The Samoan Prime Minister, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi IV, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II, and New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Marshall are featured in these 10th Anniversary celebrations.

This one hour long feature documentary will receive its first screening on the 3rd of June in Apia at the Apollo cinema.

A DVD of the feature documentary is also being released.  It will include a further one hour of interviews in Samoan and English plus excerpts from the December Closing Ceremony of the four young and very talented Samoan New Zealanders, Marlena Devoe, Pene and Amitai Pati and Moses Mackay (Sol3 Mio group).   Marlena moved through the Maota Fono singing Carmen’s ‘Habenera’ in French, whilst handing out flowers to the mesmerised dignitaries.  There is an unforgettable rendition of ‘Silent Night’ in Samoan.

The celebrations, traditional events and scenes in this film will remain preserved for future generations.