Outstanding 21-year-old Vaela’a Iloa of Tufulele was the overall winner for the 2018 17th International Siva Afi competition after stunning the crowd with an original and polished performance last week.
Owner and organiser of the competition, Leota Lene Leota said Vaela’a has been involved with the competition when he was just six years old.
“This kid has always had the passion for fire knife,” said Leota.
“He is very creative and he always has different ideas when it comes to performing fire dance which I admire so much.
“He loves what he does and every time he performs people can see it in his eyes that he is very passionate.
“His performance last night was just outstanding especially when he performed with three knives; he hooked two of the knives together and used the other arm to circulate the other knife, which was amazing.”
Leota said Vaela’a started fire knife dancing at the age of 12.
“He was a street vendor before he joined the team,” he said.
“He came around to sell lays here in town and he saw some kids practicing and so he took interest and joined the team.
“Vaela’a won five times in the International Siva Afi Competition, three times in the Teuila Competition and also in 2008 he won the competition that was held in American Samoa.
“He is a very talented kid.”
Vaelaa said to the Samoa Observer he is very happy.
“I have always been passionate about fire knife dancing and it helped me not only in providing for my family, but also I am able to secure a job here at the Siva Afi.
“Before dancing I was a street kid who was selling lays to earn a living to provide for my family.
“I thought that was all I was going to do for the rest of my life until one night I came to sell my lays here at Matautu and I saw some kids practicing.
“I immediately took interest in fire knife dancing and from that time until now it has become a passion for me.”
Speaking about the competition, Vaela’a said it was a tough one.
“All the competitors were really good and it was a close one too,” he said.
“But I tried my best even though I knew I was up against some really tough competitors.
“And at the end I came first and it has been while since I took first place. The last time I won was three years ago and so it felt really god to be on the top again.”
Asked what’s next, Vaela’a said he will keep on going and he is aiming to get a contract overseas.
“Fire knife dancing helps me provide for my family,” he said.
“It’s good money too so I am trying my best to get a contract overseas because this is one of the biggest things overseas is fire knife dancing.
“But I am thankful that Leota Lene Leota is helping us make a career out of this because I know if it wasn’t for him I would still be selling lays on the street.”