New book revisits history of Germany in Samoa
A book about the history of Germans in Samoa before independence was launched at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum on Friday night.
Authored by Tony Brunt, the book 250-page book titled ‘To walk under Palm trees; Germans in Samoa” is a comprehensive piece on the German colonial period which posed significant changes on Samoan society and culture.
More than 200 guests attended the launch.
The Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, delivered the keynote address.
“History-making is both deliberate and accidental,” he said. “But making history books, such as the one we are launching has to be more deliberate than accidental."
“Once the decision is made to make a book such as this, a book that speaks directly to a country’s or to a people’s past, deliberate thought has to go into making decisions about what to put in, how to frame it, what audience to target and so on and so forth.”
The Head of State offered his thoughts about the potential impact of this book on Samoan ideas, especially about history making, family and legacy.
The 19th and early 20th century was a time where Samoa was besieged with foreign interest. A lot of which are captured by photographs in the book.
Western historians have argued that the German period in Samoa was the most settled period during European imperial colonial history.
His Highness Tui Atua said much of this has been attributed to the skill and paternalism of Governor Wilhelm Solf.
“The Germans that came to Samoa were highly talented and well educated. The book makes this point loud and clear,” His Highness said.
“German written and photographic records offer historical evidence of what happened during their time, what they built, and of what they are interested in, in Samoa.”
He said that the legacies of what they did especially of what Governor Solf and his successor Dr, Erich Schultz-Erwerth and Dr. Augustine Kramer did, lives on today. The significance of their contribution to understanding modern Samoa cannot be understated.
He said the pictures of German Samoa recorded in the book are very real, many of which have not been publicly displayed before.
“This picture album therefore offers a record of German Samoa that is ripe for further historical and sociological analysis,” he said.
“It is a book that came together through love and nostalgia of German Samoan families for their families, many of which were born and raised in Samoa.”
He further noted that allowing the pictures to take center stage in the telling of the story of this big, the impact will be as the saying goes, worth a thousand words.
“It is a great legacy and will contribute to the task of remembers Samoa in all her fullness and color.”
The Author commended many people who assisted.
“It would have not been possible without the suffering families who've had to open their photo collections and their family heirlooms,” Mr. Brunt said.
The venue for the launch was deliberate.
“There is no other historic house than the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, it’s dripped with memories, and stories.”
During the compilation of the book, Mr. Brunt said he has come to have such deep respect and strong affection for people he’s been researching and the people he presents in the book.
“When working with photographs the people have shared, you are digitally restoring these paragraphs, you’re looking at the people photos and they’re looking at you and it’s different from historical documents. There is a certain dimension to it and it’s certainly a human dimension to it.”
Mr. Brunt said he reached out to his cousin in Auckland, Agnes Sasse Heene. Her father came to Samoa and worked here and went on to marry Louisa.
“I asked Agnes, if I could scan those photos, which included the fantastic dancing, it was one of the photos that came out of Samoa in the German colonial period, and that was when he started on his journey."
“Gradually, collections were tracked down, initially in Auckland. Families proved to be wonderfully generous and public spirited in sharing their precious photographic heirlooms."
“Almost immediately it became clear that there were some albums and collections of major archival and historical significance not just to the South Pacific but to Germany as well.”