Indigenous Samoan cultural identity expressed through dance is in danger of being lost due to the lack of commitment and pride by its current practitioners.
Gagaeolo Palepua Manu Aoete Apelu, a founding member of the original Samoa Teacher’s Cultural Group, sounded the warning recently in an interview with Samoa Observer.
“Our traditional Samoan dances were an identity for us as we promoted our culture in the first Pacific Festival of Arts held in Fiji in 1972. It saddens me to witness the rapid alterations that are evident nowadays, from traditional costumes to the style of dances there are so many additional changes,” Gagaeolo said.
“When I attended the exhibition that showcased the history of the Samoa Teachers’ Cultural Group, I was also fortunate to witness the performance by the current Teachers Cultural Group. In all honesty, they would not compare to us back in the days. But I am not saying they are a bad group, it’s just that there were inconsistencies I picked up. Their actions projected could not showcase the spirit of performing, the essence of and pride of presenting your country’s culture with every move you make.”
He said during his time there was uniformity in the traditional dance patterns and they won awards for their performances.
“The Samoa Teachers’ Cultural Group is really iconic in terms of performances, they stand out. And I just want to encourage them to be consistent. Speaking from experience, I used to take youth groups from our village to Teuila festivals and we won for five years in a row with our traditional Samoan dance.”
Expressing concern at the absence of originality in the traditional performances today, Gagaeolo said it is important that Samoans maintain their culture in order to preserve its origins.
“My advice is to encourage the sustainability of our culture, maintain it so it would not be lost. For those that perform our traditional dances, you need to commit. You are not only just dancing for the sake of dancing, that is your culture, your identity and birthright as a proud Samoan, so carry it with pride,” he added.