Preserving Culture and History

By Sarafina Sanerivi ,

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READY TO WORK: The A.F.C.P. Project team with Professor Leapai Asofou So’o and Mark Gilbert.

READY TO WORK: The A.F.C.P. Project team with Professor Leapai Asofou So’o and Mark Gilbert.

Preserving historical sites and cultural heritage is the main purpose of a U.S Embassy funded project by the Centre of Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa. 

Yesterday, the U.S Ambassador and the Vice Chancellor of N.U.S and the project team gathered at the Aoa Conference room to officially launch the project.

The project is called Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Project (AFCP) “Documentation of Archaeological & Built Heritage Places and Associated Oral Traditions Project.” 

It aims at compiling a database of Samoa’s known archaeological and built heritage places and their associated histories and oral traditions with the purpose of documenting, conserving and preserving Samoa’s cultural heritage. 

The U.S Ambassador, Mark Gilbert addressed the gathering yesterday speaking about the significance of the project, as this will be the first project of such kind being carried out in Samoa.

“The fruits of this project will be a gift to future generations of Samoans, as I understand that this will be the first of such data to be archived into a central data base-thus preserving these historical landmarks,” he said.

“This is the third AFCP project to be bestowed upon Samoa- and the second in three years, as this fund recently assisted the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture and the Tiapapata Arts Center to document the art of Samoan sinnet making.

“As that project focused quite literallu on the fibers of Samoan society, this new project now focuses on the archaeology of this great nation. For a country so steeped in ancient legend and rich history, I can only imagine the challenge of narrowing down which sites to document during the two year period that the funding covers.”

In his last remarks, he congratulated the National University of Samoa for making such worthy project come to life. 

“I am pleased that we are able to help bridge that gap, but I recognise that the hard work is now just beginning and I would like to wish you well in your efforts to document your country’s history.”

A grant of $65,000USD had been provided by the U.S Embassy to cater for the 2-year-project.

The project is executed by a Project Team comprising the Center of Samoan Studies staff and researchers, current NUS students and Stakeholder representatives.

The Vice Chancellor of the N.U.S, Professor Fui Leapai Asofou So’o, spoke on behalf of the University to thank the U.S Ambassador and the U.S representatives for their support in funding the project. 

He also agreed with Mark Gilbert that such project and document is very essential and can benefit every Samoan, especially our children.

“This project will raise awareness on the importance of our culture and heritage,” he said.

“History is very important because it connects the past to the present and can direct us to the future. This is a project which will benefit our people, our children and future generation to come.” 

The main objectives of the project is to create an inventory of known archaeological sites, including prehistoric and historical archaeological sites, built heritage places and significant 20th century heritage.

Moreover it also aims to physically find previously recorded or identified archaeological sites and map GPS coordinates for each site. And lastly, to record oral traditions associated with archaeological sites, historical archaeological sites, built heritage places and significant 20th century buildings.

According to a press release, all the data will be compiled into a ArcGis-based database which will be, at a later date, made available to the public. This project represents the establishing of a baseline for the GPS-mapping of previously recorded archaeological sites, including condition and threat assessment which will supplement ongoing research, teaching and training at the University, as well as assist in formulating national cultural heritage policy and legislation.

The AFCP Project Team are: 

Leasiolagi Dr. Meleisea Malama Meleisea (Project Director)

Dr. Penelope Schoeffel (Project Directors) 

Dionne Fonoti- Project Manager

Safua Akeli- Budget and Procurement Administrator

Matiu Matavai Tautunu ‘Aumua, To’oā Monalisa Savea’ali’i Malietoa, and So’oalo Otilia So’oalo - Cultural Liasions

Epifania Suafo’a-Taua’I - Archaeologist/Field Supervisor

Mohammed Sahib - Research/Field Assistant

Bronco Afaese, Mireta Ah Kiong, PriscillaSydney Ma’a, Salote Tulua - Student Interns

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