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Competitors gear up for Siva Afi competition

The 19th Siva Afi competition is nearly here, with a special night for Savai'i entrants on Thursday. Competition organiser, Leota Lene Leota, said Samoa’s COVID-19 state of emergency has been a challenge but a blessing, and he thinks without it they might not have taken the competition to Savai'i.

At least 10 young men are expected to register for the Savaii competition, which will be held at the Alofaaga Blowholes on Thursday 29 October. The Upolu competition will be held a fortnight later at the Siva Afi restaurant in Matautu on Thursday 12 November.

The semi-finals will have the best three from each competition face each other on Thursday 26 November (at Siva Afi), with the grand finals night on Saturday 28 November at the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Resort in Apia.

A corporate table for the event is $1000.

It costs a participant $200 to register for the competition, which goes towards hosting the event. But Leota’s fire knife dancing group The Ailao Club has sponsored all the registration fees for Savaii participants.

“We know it’s not easy for those kids in Savaii to find the money and travel from there to Apia,” Leota said.

The title of Siva Afi champion is currently held by Vaelaa Iloa from Tufulele and Taga, who won in both 2019 and 2018. He has been dancing with fire since he was a just 12-years-old to help support his family financially.

The winner of the competition wins a set of brand new fire-knives and a cheque for $3000. Second place wins $1500 and third place takes home $1000. 

Leota has been working to build up the Siva Afi industry in Samoa for decades, hoping his country will become the go-to for recruiters looking for talent.

Already, young men from Samoa have been recruited for short contracts at theme parks in Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States, which quickly become long-term contracts.

With global travel at a standstill, few competitors can hope for a lucrative dancing contract in the near future, but Leota is not without hope for their career prospects. 

He is hoping to acquire land from the Government to open a dedicated entertainment centre where Siva Afi talent can be developed and shows held, including a boarding house.

“The only people who get a benefit from what we are doing are the kids in the town area,” he said. 

“In my vision, I want to get all the kids from out in the village, from Savaii, that when they come to down they have somewhere to stay.

“We are trying to build something for all the kids, so then when those guys from overseas need people, they come here and select the kids straight away.”

Leota said he is still looking for sponsors to help make the Siva Afi competition better. If you would like to help, contact [email protected] or call 26128/7526128.

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