Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Ever seen a NZ Samoan born Faifeau’s daughter valu a popo?

Grace Fiavaai and family. Photo: Supplied
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Grace Fiavaai | Reporter

Rediscovering My Roots: a New Zealand-Born Samoan’s Journey Back to the Island.

As Samoan Language Week approaches, I find myself reflecting on a transformative journey back to the land of my ancestors. 

Born and raised in New Zealand, I always felt a deep connection to my Samoan heritage, yet there was a part of me that longed to understand the essence of the island life my parents spoke so fondly about. 

It’s been eight years since I last got to ‘valu a popo’ and ‘amo a popo’.

Luckily for me, I am a faifeau’s daughter and, at the time, I was a flight attendant for Virgin Australia NZ and on most of my days off I would commute back home to Samoa to my parents in the beautiful village of Lalomanu, one of the villages severely hit by the Tsunami 2009.

Lalomanu was home to tourists with white sandy beaches and clear blue ocean waters.

Every time I stepped off the plane, I was immediately enveloped by the smell of sweat and coconut oil mixed. 

The lush landscapes, the rhythm of the ocean, and the smiling faces of the locals were a stark contrast to the bustling streets of Mangere or South Auckland

It was a sensory overload in the best possible way. 

But what struck me most was the simplicity and depth of the island life.

Photo: Supplied

I stayed with my parents, otherwise known as “Le fale o le Faifeau”, and they were about an hour and a half drive out of town but their backyard was the beaches.

Everyone in the village knew my mother as “Paul Walker” It would take her about Fifty minutes to get to town.

I immersed myself in daily routines that revolved around the village. 

There were no high-rise buildings or congested highways, just the sound of laughter, the aroma of traditional food cooking, and the sense of belonging that I had longed for.

I participated in cultural practices that I had only heard about – from Valu popo, o’a popo, amo popo, and preparing umu, the traditional earth oven, to taking part in ava ceremonies, to being a real island girl.

I got to experience playing touch on the field in the rain, eating umu every Sunday, taking out church Ta’alolo to a newly built church within the district of Aleipata (imagine the most beautiful Taupou surrounded by the village council of men escorting her to give their gifts). 

Photo: Supplied

These experiences were more than just rituals; they were living embodiments of my heritage. 

In Samoa, life is governed by fa’a Samoa – the Samoan way. 

This philosophy emphasises community, respect, and a strong connection to our roots. 

My trip to Samoa was a journey of discovery and a reaffirmation of my identity. 

I began to understand the values my parents had tried to instil in me: the importance of family, respect for elders, and the joy of communal living.

This journey was particularly poignant as I noticed a growing trend among New Zealand-born Samoans like myself. 

My husband Etiuefa is a former Manu Samoa sevens player – a Paris gold medalist on the sevens circuit in 2015 – who was born and raised in Samoa. I now have a sense of appreciation for his upbringing but more so for our children to hopefully one day go back and become grounded and appreciative.

Photo: Supplied

More of us are making the effort to learn our language and immerse ourselves in our culture. 

Samoan Language Week has become more than a cultural celebration; it’s a bridge connecting us to our roots and helping us navigate our dual identities with pride and confidence.

It’s empowering to see more young Samoans embracing their linguistic heritage, ensuring that it remains vibrant for future generations.

As we celebrate Samoan Language Week, I urge my fellow New Zealand-born Samoans to delve deeper into our culture. 

Whether it’s through language, music, or tradition, let’s honour our heritage and carry it forward with pride. 

Fa’afetai tele lava, Samoa, for showing me the beauty and strength of our roots.



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