“E sui faiga ‘ae tumau fa’avae” was the wisdom behind the seventh edition of the “Measina a Samoa” book that was launched last Friday August 11th at the Centre for Samoan Studies.
The keynote address was delivered by the Chair of the Measina a Samoa Conference, Professor Fui Asofou So’o, who gave an overview of what can be expected in this latest edition.
Mainly it will focus on the continuation of discussions from the previous conference, particularly on the written Samoan language and the relevance today in using diacritics and also about the issue surrounding the erosion of power of the Sa’o title in relation to those with supporting titles conferred by the Sa’o.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Professor Fui Asofou So’o explained,
“It’s a continuation of discussions that we have had in other Measina Conferences before. A lot of those things, one of which is the conversation on the language and what I just said is, where are we now? In terms of the decision by our Language Commission on the question as to whether we use (or not) diacritics in the way we write.”
While the decision by the Language Commission about the use of diacritics was very broadminded (which reflected in the contributions) Professor Fui Asofou So’o raised a point that while tolerant, this opens us up to another set of consequences and that perhaps the next conversation will be about how the Samoan language (at least in written form) can be standardized.
“The decision now in the Language Commission is; use it when you feel it’s necessary to use, so the question I was posing is - who makes that decision? Me who is writing?
Or the person who’s reading my writing? And because there’s not been an answer to that question, you look at the new publication, everything is written differently.
A lot of people put in the diacritics and some put them in occasionally and some don’t. So, one of the points I was making was the whole point of a Language Commission is to standardize the language - a standard way of writing so that everyone knows what everyone is on about. “
Fui readily acknowledges that culture evolves over generations and it’s only natural that people adapt to their environment but cautions against losing our central value system that our culture is built on.
He pointed out that collectively we were beginning to accept the reality of Sa’o titles but no one ever expected to see the Sa’o title to be on the losing side where their power of authority was contested in the Land and Titles court.
“The other thing I raised, relates to the whole thing about Matai titles. The understanding has always been that the supporting titles are conferred by the Sa’o title holder… according to the report from the Land and Titles court, there have been cases where the lesser titles have contested their rights in court (in terms of authority) and the court in some cases has ruled in favour of the lesser title holders, throwing into limbo the whole thing about family, where are we heading?
Are we still having that family unit or is this a symptom of the whole thing disintegrating in a way where we will end up with a very individualistic society, just me and me? No more communalistic thing about the title and the family.”
Moving forward, Fui hopes that this latest edition of “Measina A Samoa” opens up the opportunity to seriously sit down at the next conference and come up with meaningful solutions by deciding unequivocally which areas of our culture and customs we want to maintain while being careful that we are not imprisoned in our own customs which need to be relevant in order to support us.