Figiel’s “Free Love” in Samoa

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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LOVE IS DANCE: Performers providing entertainment at the National University of Samoa during the launch of Sia Figiel’s “Free Love” Book.

LOVE IS DANCE: Performers providing entertainment at the National University of Samoa during the launch of Sia Figiel’s “Free Love” Book. (Photo: Misiona Simo/Samoa Observer)

Within six weeks of battling manic depression, renowned Samoan author, Sia Figiel, was able to complete her book “Free Love”. 

During the launch “Free Love” on Wednesday, Sia spoke openly about her love hate relationship with the mental illness.  

“I wrote this in six weeks and I got diagnosed with manic depression in October because I had to go see a doctor,” she said. 

“I didn’t understand how I couldn’t sleep for six weeks. My brain literally couldn’t turn itself off and this was the result.

“The doctor explained to me that it was infliction known to afflict creative people specifically writers, musicians, artists.  I found out that I’m in the company of people like Virgina Woolf, T.S Elliot, and Hemingway.”

The author joked saying that it was not bad to be in the company of such creative geniuses, she described what it was like to come down from a euphoric high while writing.

“I don’t want to romanticise this affliction but it’s like you have this almost divine inspiration that leads to these amazing creative works but then afterwards my depression hits me when you’re out of this world you’ve created and that’s when you crash.”

The book “Free Love”’ continues her style of breaking cultural taboos.

This is Sia’s latest novel which has been described by literary peer, Dr. Jemaima Tiatia- Seath as “fearlessly pushing through boundaries of FaaSamoa, eroticisim, ethics and sexual liberties”. 

FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.
FREE LOVE LAUNCH: Free Love was launched at the N.U.S. on Wednesday night. Photos: Misiona Simo.

The story centers on the sexual awakening of 17-year-old character, Inosia, a student who enters into a relationship with her school teacher.

In her remarks, the author reminisces about the controversy that followed the release of her book “Where we once belonged”. 

The book had similar themes to Free Love, where Samoan women discover their sexuality and try to understand it within a culture that views such themes as vulgar and forbidden.  

 “The premise of the book is forbidden love between a teacher and his student –very brilliant people,” said Sia. “I said to myself I’ve contributed once to the projection of Samoan men and the violence in ‘where we once belonged’. 

“Which is why I totally feared for my life because there were the mental Christians who burned my book as they were singing hymns on K road, this was some 20 years ago.”

Sia said she is back to stay in her home country for a good while.

“I’m very humbled to be welcomed back by our national University - this seat where we seek knowledge in this country; there are great minds under this fale tonight.”  

For a reading, the author chose a sexually explicit excerpt from “Free Love”, which depicted a sexual encounter between the characters, young Inosia Alofafua Afatasi and her science teacher Ioane Viliamu. 

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