Lene Alema of Tufuiopa has done it again.
He has secured the title for the 16th International Siva Afi Competition 2017.
The 20-year-old impressed the crowd especially the judges with his dazzling performance at the Samoa Tourism Authority Fale on Saturday night.
“I thank God for this great success,” said Lene. “It’s an honor to have this title again and I just want to thank all my families and friends for their support especially my mother.
“You know for me it’s never about the competition, I dance because I love the experience and I love making people happy by giving them a great show.”
Lene was even happier about having to dance with people he regards as family.
“I would like to thank and congratulate my brothers especially the one from Hawaii.
“It was a tough competition but everyone performed well tonight. I encourage anyone who wants to try this to join and start training for next year but for me; I’m always looking forward and working to change things up a little with fire dancing as I move on to the next level.”
Founder and organizer of the competition, Leota Lene Leota, said Lene has been a part of the Siva Afi family for a long time.
He won last year’s competition as well as the Faletalimalo Challenge.
“I think the Faletalimalo Siva afi Challenge made a big difference to all these kids.
“If you look at it, compared to last year and the previous years, nothing compared to what we have seen tonight and I think that’s really good and I’m really proud of Lene and all these guys; our locals and Matuni from Florida; for him to make the effort to come over is a blessing and not only that, he was born over there and he didn’t know he has a lot of families here and they were here to support him.
“There was nothing easy for the judges but the only thing that makes this easier for the judges is when you drop your knife because once you drop, they will deduct your points.
“One of the things we’re going to do this year; we’re going to start with all these guys who were in the finals, we plan to take them to Hawaii next year for the world fire knife dancing so hopefully we get that.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi as well as Chinese Ambassador Wang Xuefeng were present at the competition.
According to the Prime Minister, the Siva Ailao Afi is an annual event that not only draws many competitors of young men to compete for monetary prizes and recognition but also an event that ensures the sustainability of interest in the fire knife dance.
“Ailao afi or knife twirling is the age old warm up ritual of warriors which in our day and age has become and art that the young men inspired to master with the same passion and the same instruments of sharp warriors’ knives.
“It is our dance with the highest degree of difficulty to conquer all fears in the twirling of the sharp warrior’s fire knife without being hurt or burnt.
“Indeed many get burnt during their performances and it is manly not to show the pain.
“Siva ailao afi is now performed all over the world and almost everyone know that it is a Samoan warriors ritual or dance and that it has been responsible for providing some of our past winners with an employment opportunity to perform on world’s stage such as the magical world of Disneyland and so on.
“I have always been a supporter of the fire knife dance because of its’ history and job creation opportunities.
“It is an age old tradition that also signifies the end of all Samoan or the conclusion of all Samoan entertainment with the taualuga which you will also witness in the competition in the coming way of cultural festivities.”
The Prime Minister congratulated the Siva Afi and its management and staff for the coordination of this main attraction event to promote one of Samoa’s male signatures.
1st: Lene Alema – $3,000 tala and a trophy
2nd: Alema Alema – $2,000 tala
3rd: Vaela’a Iloa –$1,000tala
4th and 5th place – Matuni Vaiaoga and Upega Upega - $500 tala each