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Future bright for Samoa Observer's Tusitala Short Story competition

Friday night’s prize giving for the Tusitala Short Story Competition saw hundreds of submissions of short fiction from around the Pacific whittled down to just three winners.

The competition is divided into three categories. David Meech was announced as the 2019 competition's overall winner. 

His winning piece - “Sacred Island” - was among seven finalists in the Australia –New Zealand Category.

Mr. Meech, who could not make Friday's ceremony, told the Samoa Observer he was surprised to see on Saturday morning that he had been awarded in both the overall and Australia – New Zealand winner of the 2019 Samoa Observer Tusitala Competition.

His wife responded: “You’re joking!” before offering her husband congratulations. A kiss from his daughter followed.

“I am so happy to win because it is a beautiful prize and, like Tusitala, I am a teller of tales and distantly of Scotch heritage. Like him I am someone on the edge of the beautiful Pacific world," he said.

"I  was surprised to read that I had won but then again this story was told to me by a dear friend and was so beautiful that I felt a need to retell it."  

Mr. Meech said he had always been fascinated by Polynesian culture. 

His wife's family hail from the Uvea mo Futuna islands north of Samoa.

Mr. Meech said there are profound lessons to be learned in the cultures and traditions of small islands. 

"The giving, the tightness of the family unit, the respect of elders and the love of language – these are all common aspects which I feel the palagi needs to relearn," said Mr. Meech.

"Polynesians know who they are and stand on the unbroken line  – whereas we the palagi, much like Tusitala himself, left Britain or Europe with no expectation of seeing our family again, and sometimes little expectation of ever hearing from them again. 

"We don’t always know who we are. We simply have much to learn and the first task is to listen, a task we often perform poorly."

He believes that the Pacific people need to tell their own stories rather than having someone else write it for them and claim credits.

"Recently in my country we were very smug in retelling a British tale, full of British actors and all based on Celtic myths and language. Yet how colonial we are – so happy to collect Academy awards for the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, Hollywood films set against the beautiful backdrop of Aotearoa when in my mind we need to be telling our own stories. 

"So that is what I am doing."

Mr. Meech also thanked the Samoa Observer’s Editor-in-Chief, Savea Sano Malifa and its Publisher, Muliagatele Jean Malifa for the prize.

“What a lovely competition it is,” he said. 

The Rest of the Pacific category was made up of seven finalists from American Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. “Fa’aleleiga” by Tamari Mulitalo from American Samoa took out the honours.

Both winners, Mr. Meech and Ms. Mulitalo, were not able to attend the event at the Le Sanita Hotel at Mulinuu.

The Samoa category winner, Rebecca Lolo from Savai’i, said tearily that she did not expect to win. 

“It is an honour,” Mrs. Lolo said.

The event also marked the launching of the latest addition to the Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story competition books: “Against the Flow” which is composed of stories from the 2018 competition.

The chief competition judge, Professor Silafau Sina Vaai, said the entrants deserve to be congratulated for their narratives.

The launching of the Samoa Observer Tusitala Competition book series would not have been possible without the support of the Chinese Embassy.

During the event the Chinese Ambassador to Samoa, Chao Xiaoliang, announced the Embassy’s support would continue. 

He revealed that he grew up dreaming to become a writer rather than a diplomat, but that does not mean he enjoys his time in Samoa any less.

After reading one of the competition’s compilations, the Ambassador said he saw an opportunity for the contest to become a platform for sharing stories between the world and the Pacific.

“But I don't regret being a diplomat, because my job also fostered communication and exchange of ideas,” he said.

“I used to read a lot of French and Russian novels while I was studying in the Sichuan University. Yet this is the first time for me to dip in the literature of the Pacific Region, especially the works by Samoans.

“After reading last year' s "Against the Flow", I found that in all Chinese people and Samoan people actually have the same struggle, pain and triumph.

“Thus this competition is actually a great stage to showcase the lives and thoughts of Pacific People to China and other parts of the world.”

The first translation of the 2016 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short story competition book - “Only the Word Survives” - into Mandarin was overseen by China’s previous Ambassador to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng, and his wife, Madam Tong Xin.

The second book was from the 2017 Competition Pacific is Rising”. The third was from the 2018 Competition called “Against the flow”.

Selected placegetters and winners will be published in a book commemorating the 2019 contest. Category winners will receive US$1,000 each, while the overall winner gets an additional US$1,000.

The winners:

Australia – NZ

  • A fading colour                                        Airana Ngarewa
  • Fortunes of the 13                                   Lianne Darby
  • Gift or curse                                             Edna Heled
  • Hinepukohukohu                                     Shirley Simmonds
  • In the Neighbourhood                            Leueta Mulipola
  • Laititi ae maigi                                         Natalia Fereti
  • New Worlds                                             Dahlia Gray

 

Rest of the Pacific

  • A visit at LBJ                                                Poe Mageo                                American Samoa
  • Baby I got you                                           Lusiana Mulo                                Fiji
  • Death is living in Room 34                     Marlene Potoura Gray                   PNG
  • Eyes of a Mother                                     Goru Arvind                                   Fiji
  • Remember me                                         Susan Yee                                      Fiji
  • The fastest girl in the globe                 Rohini Balcram                                 Fiji

 

Samoa

  • O leato tipi                                                Momoe Malietoa von Reiche
  • The Lucky fella                                         Jiezhen Va’a
  • The tallest tree                                         Rachel Laulu
  • Water                                                       Jasmine Koria
  • Time it was                                               Grace Ah Young

 

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