Voice for the Unheard
In this day and age, social media seems to be the most influential tool for pretty much anything and anyone. However, the way this tool is used is the choice of each individual.
It is used by some to destroy others, promote, share, vent, meet new people and simply to gain attention.
But for a young lady who goes by the name Ruta (last name withheld for security reasons), Facebook has been a tool of discovery, identity and the promotion of the Samoan Culture.
Running her Alias page ‘Afakasi Roots’, Ruta has drawn in a huge following of both Samoa-based and overseas-based Samoans, all interested in seeing the Samoan culture through her eyes.
Being a half-cast Samoan from Edinburgh Scotland, London, Fasito’o, Solosolo and Vaivase, Ruta began the page as a form of escape.
Slowly, however, it gained attention as she continues to post about her experiences of Samoa.
With her Facebook friends list filled to the brim, Afakasi Roots has become a platform for half-cast Islanders everywhere looking for a place to belong and also a place where Samoans overseas can see a piece of home away from home.
“The main content on my page is Samoa,” Ruta tells the Samoa Observer.
“The culture, the traditions, the practices that are ought to be done from waking up in the morning and making breakfast for your elders to visiting the plantation during the day and ending it all with evening prayer.
“Contents vary dependent on what is discussed on the page; could be a business promotion or even little things like a social event.”
Being limited only by the number of friends Facebook allows any person to have, she found herself followed by people from all walks of life; all of which look up to Ruta as an inspiration.
“It does make me happy and proud that I’m able to bring some form of childhood memory or reminisce to those who do miss being back in the islands.”
But what is the true purpose of Afakasi roots?
“The purpose of ‘Afakasi Roots’ speaks for itself really,” Ruta says.
“The term ‘Afakasi’ to me is a representative of my background being of mixed race; Caucasian and Samoan; My roots as previously mentioned are where my two worlds collide - not in a negative way but more so intertwined which I feel is reflective of me as a person, a human being.
“I guess the vision I had from the start was to create a platform for those with similar backgrounds to feel that they belong within society, within their half Pacific island community, to feel accepted for being different and not as though they’re perceived instinctively hence the name of the Facebook page Representing Loud and Proud Halfcast Pacific Islanders.”
Although much has been achieved through her page, Ruta still has some goals.
“At the moment my ultimate goal is my page to continue to connect to everyone who wants to learn about Samoa,” she said.
“That is my main focus; to display the best of the Pacific Islands and Samoan culture.
“As the creator of a Pacific Samoan site page on Facebook, my work is all about Afakasi Pacific Island people, Pacific Island people and my own people from my Samoan heritage bloodline and what I share, educate and advocate on the page.
“With saying that, all credit goes back to the people; I don’t want any of it, I just enjoy that people value and appreciate my time spent promoting my home.”
Gaining much inspiration from her Samoan mother who taught her the meaning of cultural values, Ruta has relayed those lessons to other Islanders who have grown up in a western environment.
“To be here in Samoa in the flesh is also another contributing factor,” Ruta said.
“To witness firsthand how my people live and to be able to see certain traditions being practiced right before you is a blessing - my time here so far has been amazing and I’m planning on staying on the island for a while.”
But nothing has given Ruta the feeling of accomplishment more than to be able to connect to the Pacific Islands prominent business owners.
“By linking their business with my page, they are able to use my page as their own advertising platform free of charge of course,” she said.
“Money isn’t everything to me, as long as I can give back to my community; whatever makes them happy makes me happy; that makes me more proud than anything.”
According to Ruta, her values and standards are just like anyone else’s.
“I’m simple, and like majority of people, family and God are what I value along with culture,” she said. “I do like to think I have high standards but it doesn’t necessarily mean I look down on people - no, not at all. Everyone is different and I guess for me, if you practice what you preach, that’s standard enough.”
Ruta has a simple message for her people, we need to go back to where it all began.
“Embrace your culture and traditions,” she said. “Let’s go back to basics because I feel we’re losing our touch due to modernization; It is all well and good to move up and forward with the times but at the same time, we need to ensure our own values as a nation are kept alive.
“You want people to feel fresh knowing our ancestors have left behind the legacies we ought to carry forward as we strive for a better tomorrow.”
But it hasn’t been just smooth sailings for Afakasi Roots.
“I’ve come across multiple issues and still to date those issues continue,” Ruta said.
“Obviously where there’s something good, there’ll always be people out there who’ll try and ruin it for you; One major issue I faced a while back was dealing with the amount of trolling haters I had to endure for simply being me; ‘Afakasi’.
“I thank them for being part of this page as they inspire me to bring out the best in what I see through others.
“I’m an outgoing person and I strongly feel my personality reflects the same nature; I’m very open minded and I say what I feel therefore having to face the negativity coming from people who I’ve never met personally almost drove me to the point of suicide and it really affected me mentally.
“I’m not going to go into much detail of what was said but it was enough to cause me to close myself away and it is only within the last few years I’ve started to feel myself again.
“I can’t say there are no other issues but one other main one is when people become political, and that is when I back away and let the people debate amongst themselves; not that I’m hiding away, but personally I don’t do politics and I prefer to let everyone say what they feel is their opinion on certain topics discussed on the page.”
Lastly, Ruta encourages everyone to accept their identity no matter where you come from.
“There’s nothing wrong with being ‘Afakasi’ and to those who are in my shoes and feel they are excluded from everyone else, don’t let that bring you down,” she said.
“People need to realise we are all human, our appearances may be different but we all bleed the same colour. I for one enjoy representing my bloodlines of my Ancestors - Reigning from the Realm of Scotland, England, and Samoa.”