It’s Teuila Festival time. And time to bring back the fautasi race!

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Well how time flies. It feels like it was only this time last year we were welcoming regional and global leaders for the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting and celebrating the 27th Annual Teuila Festival at the same time.

Twelve months later, the Forum leaders are gathering in Nauru for their annual meeting, while here in sunny and beautiful Samoa, visitors, tourists and our very own people are once again celebrating the 28th Teuila Festival. 

It started last night with a thanksgiving service at the E.F.K.S. Hall in Sogi where some of the nation’s spiritual leaders committed the celebration to God in prayer. Why is this important? In Samoa, God comes first in everything. As an official Christian state, it’s critical that God’s blessings and covering is acknowledged in everything that we do. 

And so last night, it wasn’t just a prayer service. It was a praise service where choirs from all over the country offered thanksgiving and worship through different hymns. 

It’s quite a unique part of Samoa. You often wonder why there are so many talented Samoan musicians all over the world, including some of finest vocals in the world. If you were at the Teuila choir festival, you will need to look no further. In Samoa, everyone is talented. They sing in the choir from an early age and once that is drummed into you, it will never really leave you. You will always have it.

But that’s just one part of the Teuila Festival. This week is all about showcasing the best of Samoa for the world to see. The vibes are positive and there is definitely plenty of excitement and anticipation in the air. 

Not just in terms of culture but we’ve got a string of exciting sporting competitions lined up – with some of them played last weekend. There is something for everybody.

Here’s the thing, whether you’re a fan or not, there is no denying that the Teuila Festival certainly does something to our local psyche every time it rolls around this time of the year.

You see, even if you don’t care much for Samoan entertainment, cultural dances, games, pageants and all the gamut that makes up the Teuila Festival, one cannot help but be swept up in the Teuila fever. There is definitely a marked change in the atmosphere, as locals and tourists alike take advantage of the array of activities, sights and entertainment that are on display and are made available throughout this week.

It’s a great time to be patriotic but in a more relaxed, fun and drawn out way compared to the rushed feel of Independence celebrations. It’s a good time to take stock of and be grateful of the many blessings that are afforded to us who call this place home.

I mean we can do this any time, but the Teuila Festival seems to make it so much easier to be appreciative of this when our culture and who we are as a people take center stage for a whole week. 

And for our visitors, it’s also a great time for them to be part of who we are as proud islanders who have gone through so much, but still have so much more to celebrate.

This year’s event is made special with the added excitement and novelty of taking the Miss Samoa pageant to the big island of Savai’i. Kudos to the organizers for this, as it means that not only do our people in Savai’i get to be a part of the Teuila Festival, it also gives the pageant a new lease of life, new audience, new venue and a renewed appreciation for what the pageant stands for and is trying to achieve. As a proud Samoan with roots in Savai’i, allow me to say thank you to the pageant organisers for making it happen. Thank you.

The only event that is sorely missing from the Teuila line-up is the fautasi or long boat racing. First they scrapped it from the Independence events, and now it has suffered the same demise during the Teuila Festival. 

It’s now gone from all of our major, national celebrations.

If that’s the case, where then can it be featured, if ever again? If the main aim of the Teuila Festival is to foster and maintain our cultural measina or treasures, then we are failing the fautasi races in a big way. 

This is after all is one of the highlights of any of our nationwide festivities.

We understand that these races are not cheap to hold, but that is usually the case for things that are worth holding on to. They cost something. Sometimes a lot. But oftentimes it’s a price worth paying if you want to ensure its longevity and that it survives. 

Those races and the teams that they comprise have the power to bring together communities like nothing else can. Festivals by their very nature are happy events. 

Let’s ensure that we will still have something to celebrate in future Teuila Festivals when it comes to fautasi races. 

That said, to all our visitors, make yourselves at home. Chuck those shoes away, lose the tie, find some sandals and relax. And just in case your scheduled meeting doesn’t start on time, don’t be angry, it’s normal. This is beautiful Samoa, the place where island time was born. 

Have a safe and fun-filled Teuila week, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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