Celebrating ‘Our Heritage, the Ocean’

By Ilia L. Likou ,

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IN YOUR HANDS: Those in attendance shared in the happy occasion knowing that ‘Our Heritage, the Ocean’ is now available for your reading pleasure.

IN YOUR HANDS: Those in attendance shared in the happy occasion knowing that ‘Our Heritage, the Ocean’ is now available for your reading pleasure.

A new book about the Pacific by Pacific writers is now available with the launch of a collection of short stories by the Samoa Observer. ‘Our Heritage, the Ocean’ offers readers of all ages, 16 of the top stories from the 2015 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition. 

The book was officially launched at the Samoa Observer office on Thursday night. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, were in attendance. 

As the main sponsor of the printing of the book, the New Zealand High Commissioner, Jackie Frizelle, delivered the keynote address. This is what she said: 

 “I had a late night last night.  It wasn’t because I was writing this speech.  

I made the mistake of picking up ‘Our Heritage, the Ocean’ to read another of the stories and I couldn’t put it down.  My measure of a good book is one where I have to force myself to read slower so I can make it last longer….or in this case reluctantly closing it so that I have more to enjoy later. 

Some books are worthy but boring….while others are entertaining but frivolous.  It is a rare find to pick up a collection of short stories like this one,  that is both totally absorbing and meaningful.  I think we should not underestimate how important this collection is.  

While there are a number of very talented Pacific authors, there is not enough published, with a really authentic Pacific voice.  And that is one of the two things I enjoyed the most about the stories.  

Each story has a different and very distinctive voice – some of them young, hip and urban, others are more kua, some use the voice of an unborn child while others tell the story as a wise observer.  All of them however are courageous in their honesty – and this is the second thing I loved about the stories - there is something very real and sometimes raw about the world they provide a window into.  

Pacific values are a common thread among the stories - particularly where custom meets the modern world; or Christianity and older Pacific heritage connect or collide.    But they also expose many universal truths about human nature – through exploring themes such as relationships, honesty, violence, identity, and relationships with parents

New Zealand is very proud to support the publication of this book.  It is great to see the best stories from the 2015 Samoa Observer Tusitala short story contest made available to a wider audience. 

I am sure Tusitala Robert Louis Stevenson would also be proud to have his name associated with it.   

He was a master of the written word, and knew how to set a scene with a few minor details, or outline a character with a few well-chosen phrases. Tusitala’s attention to detail captured a strong sense of place.  He also could tell a very entertaining yarn, which at the same time shining a light on human nature and society.  These stories do the same thing. 

At the prize-giving for the short story competition, Mike Walsh used this quote  “Ahakoa he iti – he pounamu”.  

Or, in English “Although it may be small, it is a treasure”.

This book, containing the winning stories, is small. It weighs less than a can of tuna, and is slim enough to get lost inside a handbag or school bag. Yet it is still a treasure.

I’d like to commend the Observer, and Savea in particular, for having the vision to create this competition and the beautiful publication. 

I also acknowledge the tireless efforts of Marj Moore.   This initiative has provided incentives and an outlet for aspiring writers throughout the region.  

It cements the rich cultural reputation of Samoa and its leadership role in the region.   It has also provided readers with some great reading that can only serve to support literacy in the region.   I’d like to finish with a couple of quotes from one of my youngest daughter’s favourite books – ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl. The story is about a young girl who is neglected by her parents, but who learns to read and is able to expand the world she lives in.

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

In another part of the story, the author says

“Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea.“

To all the authors whose work is published in “Our Heritage, the Ocean” and to the staff of the Samoa Observer who made the publication possible, I would like to offer my warmest congratulations. 

Your stories have now been sent out into the world like ships upon the ocean, and no one can know where their voyage will take them. Soifua ma ‘ia manuia”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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