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When Samoan matai Lelevaga Fa’amanū Lā’ulu speaks of his cherished home, his words resonate with immense pride.
His pride for his nation and his people is brimming as his community prepares to mark 60 years of independence for Samoa.
Samoa became the first Pacific Island to gain independence from the administration of New Zealand 60-years-ago. This weekend festivities around the Waikato will honour Samoa’s history.
Lelevaga Fa’amanū Lā’ulu, who is the chairperson of the Waikato Samoa 60th Independence Celebration organising committee, and the vice president of the Waikato Samoan Association, says this year’s event is historic.
“This is a very special and important event not only in terms of remembering the history and the struggles our forefathers encountered during the colonial era,” he says.
“But (it) also marks a new chapter in our history books where our reigning and first ever female Prime Minister was elected into office. She is the only daughter of Samoa’s first Prime Minister in 1962, when our island country became independent, the late Matā’afa Faumuinā Fiamē Mulinu’ū II.”
“We as the people of Samoa are very proud of our country’s economic growth and development in many areas during these past years. However, there were some political issues that we experienced along the way, but that didn’t stop the government and the people of Samoa from the achievements they made so far until the present moment. Now 60 years on, we have seen Samoa, our country, developed.”
This weekend’s event is expected to see attendee numbers exceed 3000 people, who will participate in a games afternoon for the elderly, a vibrant Samoan parade through Hamilton city, traditional ava ceremony, Samoan performance competition, church service, and a volleyball competition.
“The number of Samoans living in the Waikato region is apparently growing,” he says.
“This is evident in the number of the Samoan Parishes now established in Hamilton and surrounding towns…It is expected that around 3000 plus people will be attending and celebrating with us during the course of this event. It is really good to see many Samoan people attending this event, and apart from them, there will be a good number of non-Samoan friends that are invited as well.”
Among those expected to attend are government officials, local dignitaries, members of the private sector and church leaders.
“I am 100% sure, this event will benefit our community and may help give them a sure sense of pride about their identity as Samoans and their culture….May God bless Samoa,” he says.
This year’s milestone also coincides with Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa – Samoa Language Week, which celebrates the third most spoken language in New Zealand. It will run from 29 May to 4 June.
“Ierusalema e, ‘afai e galo ‘oe iā te a’u, ia galo lava i lo’u lima taumatau. ‘Afai ‘ou te lē manatua ‘oe, ia pipi’i a’e lo’u laulaufaiva i lo’u gutu. (Salamo 137:5), which says ‘If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you’…This is such a wonderful verse that will forever stay relevant [and] true to us as Samoan people living overseas. It is not easy to just forget where our origins are,” Lelevaga Fa’amanū Lā’ulu says.