Origins of Samoa's first flag and national anthem

By Fuimaono Lumepa Hald 29 May 2022, 12:09AM

The National University of Samoa’s Center for Samoan Studies has held a film series which gave the history behind the origins of first Samoan flag and national anthem.

Dionne Fonoti, a senior lecturer at the Centre for Samoan Studies, gave details on the journey of Samoa’s flag and the national anthem in a recent interview with the Samoa Observer.

She said Pili'opo Tamasese Maia'i wrote an excerpt on the first Samoan flag which the Centre used in 2018 where Pili'opo made reference to the tama'aiga who were assigned the task of designing and creating the flag.

"The two Tama'aiga, Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole and Malietoa Tanumafili II were given the task to design and make a flag to be presented to the Fono a Faipule for their approval so a meeting was held at the Tamasese residence at Leififi, where they and their wives Masiofo Noue and Masiofo Lili browsed over a book containing all the photos of national flags of different countries of the world,” stated the excerpt written by Pili'opo.

Pili'opo then pointed out the artistic skills of Malietoa and his drawing that depicted a people of pride and honour, according to Ms Fonoti. 

"Afioga Malietoa, who was very artistic, made several sketches to try and find a design that would best define our people as Samoans and these islands as our God-given right to ownership.”

The question of how the Southern Cross also got onto the Samoan flag was also explained.

Pili'opo, according to Ms Fonoti, said they finally agreed on a design and Fialaui'a Tamasese, aged 12 at the time was sent to fetch her mother's red lipstick to colour the red part and a pen was used for the blue part. The white paper showed the stars of the Southern Cross.

"The red represented the blood shed by the fallen patriots, the blue stood for national unity and the Southern Cross stars depicted our Pacific location and environment,” Pili'opo wrote at that time.

“There were limited resources in those days so they pooled whatever monies they had and the two Masiofo went to town looking to buy the specific materials. 

“My mother was a skilled seamstress and she hand-sewed the flag and when completed it was taken to Mulinu'u to the Fono a Faipule who accepted and approved for it to be our National Flag."

Ms Fonot said it was Sauni Iiga Ioane Kuresa who compiled the national anthem and was known for playing two horns.

"Sauni was also famous for being able to play two horns simultaneously and toured around the Pacific sharing his talents," she said.

This newspaper contacted the National Orchestra Director and composer P.J Fonoti Ieriko to speak about the national anthem's origins.

Mr Ieriko said like any national anthem of a new nation, it stirred pride in them as it identified them.

"Like any national anthem, it must stir the pride in us about who we are as a people or as a nation and the Samoa anthem lives up to that experience,” he said. 

“The ‘Samoa Tula’i or ‘O le Fu’a o le Sa’olotoga o Samoa’ (the banner of freedom) won the anthem competition and was first performed on 1 June 1948 which later became Samoa's official national anthem in 1962.

"The composer Sauni Iiga Kuresa will be proud to hear his anthem still relevant today, the composer was born in Suvavaou, Fiji on 23 January 1900 and died in Samoa at the age of 77.”

The words of the national anthem are written below: 

Samoa, tula’i ma sisi ia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!

Samoa, tula’i ma sisi ia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!

Vaai ‘i na fetu o lo’ua agiagia ai:

Le faailoga lea o Iesu, na maliu ai mo Samoa.

Oi, Samoa e, uu mau lau pule ia faavavau.

‘Aua e te fefe; o le Atua lo ta fa’avae, o lota sa’olotoga.

Samoa, tula’i: ‘ua agiagia lau fu’a, lou pale lea!

By Fuimaono Lumepa Hald 29 May 2022, 12:09AM
Samoa Observer

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