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Female siva afi star issues challenge

A prominent female fire knife dancer wants to see more females participate in Teuila Siva Afi competition.

Moemoana Schwenke, 19, from Auala, Savai’i and Vailima, performed on the Teuila stage for the very first time on Wednesday night.

"This year is my first year at Teuila festival," she said. "I’m really proud to be a part of it because among eight siva afi warriors here, I’m the only girl," she added, smiling.

"I am interested in competing but at the moment there isn’t enough interest in siva afi, so I’m proud to be here amongst Samoans and people from overseas to show them that women can do it too, and maybe I might spark some interest amongst the audience this year."

Moemoeana is in Samoa for a different project but was asked to perform on the festival stage to showcase women fire knife dancing.

"I said yes straight away and I’m just really proud to be here."

When she was 15 years of age, Moemoana became one of few female siva afi dancers in the world, challenging gender stereotypes in a male dominated area while pushing her own limits of fearlessness.

Earlier in the year, Moemoana was crowned runner-up at the finals at Hawaii's Polynesian Cultural Centre but she said the biggest highlight was women's inclusion in the event. 

"I just competed in Hawaii World fire knife competition and I came second. And just from that competition alone, a lot more girls were interested in learning so I hope someone in the audience is inspired and maybe takes it up."

Moemoana, the daughter of Frederick Schwenke and former Miss Samoa and Miss South Pacific, Maryjane Schwenke has been dancing since she was young, in their dance group called Matavai Pacific Cultural Arts, where she is now also a choreographer.

In hopes to inspire more females, especially on island, she aims to bring over female fire knife dancers from Matavai to showcase more of female potential in the art of ailao af.

"I’m a part of a group in Australia called Matavai Pacific Cultural Arts and we have many siva afi female dancers.

"And I hope to one day bring them over and maybe that would spark some more interest and you know, some workshops in Samoa hopefully in the future, more girls will take up opportunities like Teuila to showcase their culture."

Moemoana is passionate not only in her performing arts talent but also in promoting equality to advocating for the preservation of the environment.  

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