“Samoan Queer Lives” launched

The first collection of fa’afafine stories as told in their own words, Samoan Queer Lives, launched last night, with a series of readings, contemporary dance and a performance by a Samoa’s Got Talent contestant. 

Artists Yuki Kihara and Dan Taulapapa McMullin are both Samoan fa’afafine, who are determined to create authentic space for voices like theirs in history.

The anthology of 14 stories is from interviews or writings from Samoan fa’afafine, including two full plays.

Ms Kihara said before the successful application to Little Island Press for publication, she was rejected by several international publishers.

“They slammed the door in our faces, and told us there was no market for it. Well tonight, we proved them wrong,” she said.

Acting High Commissioner of New Zealand, Nick Hurley, gave the opening address for the launch. He said he was grateful for an insight into a closed world.

“A lot of them had quite difficult upbringings but some had really amazing parents who supported them, and it was incredible the amount of support a number of them got.

“There is a lot of unhappiness, but at the end of the day it’s about how strong they are and how they have come through all of that, not unscathed but better, bigger people.

“I would never be able to know any of that without reading the book.”

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“Tonight, we celebrate the courage and humanity of fa’afafine – we are all so much richer for it,” he said.”

Alex Su’a is the President of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association (S.F.A), and features in the book. It’s about time stories about fa’afafine weren’t about sexual perversion or adversary, he said.

“People are always asking who you sleep with, instead of how can I support you.

“Our stories need to be recorded from a different angle – we have struggles, but we also have celebrations.”

As well as launching Samoan Queer Lives, Ms Kihara and her partners at Samoa Stationary and Books used the opportunity to honour their fa’afafine sisters who had passed away before publication.

Seuli Allan Alo, Memea Eleitono Ma’aelopa, Shevon Solipo Matai and Tootooali’i Roger Stanley were remembered for their impact on the community.

While Su’a read some of her own piece for the audience, Seiuli Allan Alo’s nephew, Valentino Maliko shared his uncle’s words, as well as a performance by the dancers of S.P.A.C.E (Samoa Performance Arts and Create Excellent), the organisation Seiulu established.

One of Tootooali’i’s close friends Vaito’a Toelupe read from his chapter, and did her best to “embody” him.

“He was larger than life – once, twice, three times a lady,” he said.

To end the night, Jojo Otto, who is Samoa’s Got Talent’s only fa’afafine contestant, performed a raucous rendition of Aretha Franklin’s You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural Woman).

The book is available from S.S.A.B for T$60 and $90 (softcover and hardback), or on Amazon.

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