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'Afa'afakasi is an ongoing project attempting to reconnect to Gagana Sāmoa (Samoan language) and Fa'a Sāmoa (the Samoan way / Samoan culture). Lomiga Tasi (Issue One) has been created in celebration of Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa (Samoan Language Week) which runs from Sunday 29 May to Saturday 4 June, 2022.
This issue is called Folasaga Lona Lua (Second Introduction) and will focus on basic words and phrases. The aim is also to playfully explore physical and digital distance, as well as collective memory.
Gagana Sāmoa, pronounced like 'ngah-ngah-nah sah-moh-ah', is one of the five Samoic languages, the others are Tuvaluan, Tokelauan, Pukapukan and Niuafo'ou. It is also similar to other languages of the pacific such as te reo Māori, lea faka-Tonga, vagahau Niue, 'ōlelo Hawai'i, and te reo Kuki Airani (Cook Islands Māori).
There are three levels of Gagana Sāmoa. Everyday gagana is used with friends, family and acquaintances. Formal gagana is used when talking to strangers and people of status. Formal gagana fa'amatai is the language used by matai (chiefs).
Tālofa lava 👋
Mālō soifūa 👋
Mālō lava 👋
Tālofa lava (hello) is the respectful way to say greet someone and is pronounced 'tah-loh-fah lah-vah', and tālofa is often used on its own. Mālō soifūa, pronounced 'mah-loh soy-foo-ah', mālō lava or simply mālō, can also be used to say hello.
Tōfā soifūa (goodbye), pronounced 'toh-fah soy-foo-ah', is used in formal circumstances. Tōfā, or simply fā, are used in everyday situations.
In Gagana Sāmoa words are pronounced as they are written. Konesona (consonants) are always followed by a vaueli (vowel). There are fifteen original letters in the Samoan alphabet including the ('), koma liliu or ʻokina (glottal stop), which is like the middle of 'uh-oh'. Three letters are borrowed from the English alphabet (H, K and R).
All the konesona have the same sounds as in the English alphabet with the exception of ‘G’, which is pronounced as ‘NG', and 'P' which is pronounced closer to 'B'. When speaking casually 'T' is often replaced with a 'K' sound, 'N' becomes 'NG' and 'R' becomes 'L'. Generally when prounouncing words the second last syllable is emphasised.
a (person, casual )
u (us, casual )
In gagana Sāmoa both short vaueli sounds and long vaueli sounds are used, for example 'A' and 'Ā'. Every vaueli in a word is sounded out. The only exceptions are when 'i' and 'u' are followed by unnaccented vaueli. The 'i' changes to a 'y' sound and 'u' changes to a 'w' sound. Examples include vaiaso (week) which is pronounced 'vai-yah-soh', and uila (bike) which is pronounced 'wee-lah'.
When two vaueli are side by side they are each given their own pronunciation, but often 'run together'. An example is vae (leg) and vai (water). To someone who does not speak gagana Sāmoa they could sound very similar as 'ae' and 'ai' both create sounds similar to 'eye' in English.
as in 'up'
as in 'bet'
as in 'be'
as in 'awful'
as in 'two'
as in 'father'
as in 'bed'
as in 'meet'
as in 'thought'
as in 'shoe'
'O ā mai 'oe?
'Ae 'o ā mai 'oe?
If you are speaking to one person you can ask them 'O ā mai 'oe? (how are you?), pronounced like 'oh ah my oi'. When speaking to two people you would instead say "'O ā mai 'oulua?", the last word pronounced 'ow-loo-ah'. When speaking to three or more you would say "'O ā mai 'outou?", the last word pronounced 'ow-tow'.
Some replies include: manuia fa'afetai (well thankyou), pronounced 'mah-noo-ee-ah fah-ah-feh-tie', lelei tele (very good), pronounced 'leh-lay teh-leh', feoloolo lava (okay), pronounced 'feh-oh-loh-oh-loh lah-vah', and 'ae ā 'oe? (but what about you?), pronounced like 'eye yah oi'.
Some upu aoga (useful words) include: 'ioe (yes), pronounced 'ee-oh-eh', leai (no), pronounced 'leh-eye', fa'amolemole (please), pronounced 'fah-ah-moh-leh-moh-leh', tūlou (excuse me), pronounced 'too-low'.
Some common slang includes: seki (cool), pronounced 'seh-kee', fiapoko (know it all), pronounced 'fee-ah-poh-koh', and the New Zealand term uce which comes from the Samoan word uso, pronounced 'oo-soh', generally used to address someone of the same gender as you as your sister or brother.
Sāmoa has a tropical tau (climate) and does not have four distinct seasons. The weather is generally differentiated into tau mālūlū (dry season) between May and October, and tau o tīmuga (wet season) between November and April.
Some useful words about weather include: mālūlū (cold), pronounced 'mah-loo-loo', vevela (hot), pronounced 'veh-veh-lah', māfanafana (warm), pronounced 'mah-fah-nah-fah-nah', and timu (rain), pronounced 'tee-moo'.
Generally clothing is referred to as lāvalava, pronounced 'la-vah-la-vah', or 'ofu, pronounced 'oh-foo'. Lā'ei is the word for formal attire and is pronounced 'lah-eye'.
In ancient times clothing was made from trees such as the coconut palm and the paper mulberry, which are used for traditional ceremonial costumes and accessories that are still worn today. When linen, cotton and silk arrived in Sāmoa in the 1830s, a distinctive Samoan style of clothing emerged. The 'ie lāvalava is a wrap around rectangular printed cloth and is daily clothing item in Sāmoa. There are also formal clothing items include the puletasi, pronounced 'poo-leh-tah-see', and the 'iefaitaga, pronounced 'ee-eh-fai-tah-ngah'.
Body tatau (tattoos) are a traditional part of Samoan culture and are a meaningful expression of identity. Although a lot of knowledge has been lost, it is still a popular practice today.
Well known tatau include the malu, pronounced 'mah-loo', and the pe'a, pronounced 'beh-ah'. The malu covers the upper legs from the knee and the pe'a covers the body from the knees to the middle of the back.
Siva (dance) is performed at both formal and informal events and is an important element of fa'asāmoa. There are a number of traditional dances including the fa'ataupati (slap dance) and sāsā (a type of group dance).
In the fa'ataupati, percussion is intensified by slapping of chests, sides, thighs and stamping of the feet. Contemporary versions can incorporate other dance genres like hip hop. Sāsā involves a sequence of choreographed movements performed by a group moving to the steady beat of a pātē (tin drum).
Mea'ai (food) is a critical aspect of fa'asāmoa. When entertaining guests, it is important to make sure that there is enough food for everyone and some left over for guests to take home. Traditionally just the men prepared food, however now it is usually a shared responsibility amongst the family. In many Samoan families, there are two main meals a day with the main one in the evening when all members of the family are at home.
The traditional way to prepare food is in an umu (earth oven). It is still the preferred method for making large amounts for special occasions, but is now used less often. Food that can be cooked in an umu include taro, ufi (yam) and 'ulu (breadfruit).
An elemental part of fa'asāmoa is 'āiga (family), pronounced 'eye-ing-ah'. In samoan culture there is no great distinction between immediate and extended family. The concept of 'āiga includes aunties, uncles, grandparents, great grandparents, cousins and other distant relatives. In Sāmoa generally all elders are seen as the parents and children as sisters and brothers regardless of relation or generation. This is illustrated by the fact that the word tausoga (cousin) is a relatively recent word to gagana Sāmoa. The slang word kasegi, pronounced 'kah-seh-ngee', is more commonly used for cousin.
To wish someone well or say goodbye manuia le aso (have a good day) can be used, pronounced 'mah-noo-ee-ah leh ah-soh'. The word aso (day) can also be interchanged with vaiaso (week), taeao (morning) pronounced 'tay-eh-ow', afiafi (afternoon) pronounced 'ah-fee-ah-fee', and pō (night) pronounced 'poh'.
Some other nice fasifuaitau (phrases) are alofa atu (love you), pronounced 'ah-loh-fah ah-too', and fa'afetai lava (thank you), pronounced 'fah-ah-feh-tie lah-vah'.
🌺🌴👻👻🐥🐥🐥🦀🦀🍞🍞🍞🦀🦀🦀🦀🦀🍞🍞🍞🦀🦀🦀🦀🐥🐥👻🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺 🌺🌴🌴👻👻👻🐥🐥🦀🦀🦀🦀🐥🐥🐥🐥🦀🦀🦀🐥🐥🐥🐥🐥👻👻🌴🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌴🌴🌴👻👻🌴🌴👻👻👻👻👻👻🐥🐥🐥🐥🐥🐥🐥👻👻🌴🌺🌺 🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴👻🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺 🌺🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺 🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌺🌴🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴👻🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺 🌺🌴👻👻👻👻👻🐥👻👻🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺 🌺🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴👻🐥🐥🐥👻👻👻🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌴🌴👻👻👻👻👻🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴👻👻👻👻🌴🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺🌴🌴🌺🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺🌺 🌺🌺🌺🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌴🌺🌺
This project was created on the unceded lands of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people. It also was created alongside discussions with and includes contributions from people born in Samoa but living on Yugambeh Country (Gold Coast) and in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland).
Fa'afetai tele lava to Denise Roberts, Moira Roberts and Tacy Fatu for giving up their time to help with this publication, as well as to Maria Auva'a-Tuitama for the Samoan lessons. Also fa'afetai to Adrian Tuitama, Rebecca Stowers and Carl Winterstein for their additions.
All contributors to this issue are 'āiga and our family land called Satomai is on the border of Tufulele and Faleasi’u in ‘Upolu, Samoa. We have varying degrees of knowledge and experience with Samoan language and culture.
This publication does not represent or encompass the whole of Samoan culture, it is meant to be an introduction and an ongoing learning process. If you see information that is incorrect or would like to give feedback please email email@example.com.
This is the first issue of an ongoing project called 'Afa'afakasi. This project is a part of Le Phem Era, a creative research, archival and publishing practice based in Naarm (Melbourne) run by designer, artist and filmmaker Leitu Bonnici.
A play on the term ‘afakasi (half Samoan), ‘Afa‘afakasi essentially means half of a half Samoan. This new term was created to raise questions around racial classifications and connection to, or disconnection from heritage. My grandpa was born and raised in Samoa but I am mostly of European ethnicity and removed from Samoan culture. The knowledge that I have has been gained through interactions with family, as a tourist in Samoa and through my own research.
💃 👻🐥🌤💸🌈🥥🤙🌊🌊💧💸💃💸🌊🌊🦀🌺 🎼🍍🐖🍍🐖🤙👻 🌊 🌴🦀🦀👻🌴🌴 🎼🐖🌈💧🌊🌤👻👻🌺 🌴👻👻🌺 🍍💃💸💸 🦀🎼 🌤💃🐖 🎼 🌈💸🌤🦀🐥 🎼💃💸💃🌈🌈🐖💃🤙💧👻 💧🐖 🌺🌤💃 🌺 🍍💸💧👻 🌺🌺 🐠💃🌈💧🐥 🍍 💸 🍞🍍 👻🌤🌤🦀🌤💧🌺 🌴👻🦀🦀 🐖🤙🍞 🍍🐠🌈💸💧🍞🐥👻 🌤💃 👻🌈 👻🌤🐥👻🍞🌤🦀🌴 🐖🌊 💸🥥🌈🌈🤙🌊🌈🎼🍍🐠💃💸 🌺💧💃 🌤🥥🐖 🍞💧💧💸🥥🍞 🌈🌤👻 🌺🥥🐖🎼 🌤🌈 🌴🌤🌊🌊🦀 💸🐥 🦀🌊💧🌴 🦀💃 🍞🥥🎼 🌺🦀🌴🦀💸🌈🤙🌊🍞 🐖🌤🐥 🌴 🌴🌴👻🐥👻🐥 🦀💧💸🐖 🦀💸🐠 🐖🐠 🐖🌊🌴 🐖🎼 🦀🌊🌊🦀 🎼 🐥🥥 👻💸🐖🐠🤙🍞🍞 🍍🌊🍞💸🐠🐖 🌈🍍🍍🍍🍍 💧🍍 💃🌈🐠🎼 🎼🍍🎼 🎼🐖🎼 🍍🌈💸🤙🤙💸💸🥥 👻🌊🌈🐠🎼 🌤💃💃🐠🐖🎼 🎼🐖🍍 🐥👻 🐠🌤 🌴🥥🎼 🍍💸💧🤙🌈 🐥💧💧🍞🌊💃💃💃🎼 🐥🦀👻 💸🌴 🎼🍍💃💸🦀 🦀🐠 🐠🍍 🌺🌤🌊💸🎼🎼🎼 🌺🌺 🐠🍞 🎼💸🌺 🌺👻👻