From top left: With my amazing parents, luau being prepared for an umu, the fish market, storng young men at Vanya's Gallery cafe weaving a star, with Mele Mauala from UN Women Samoa and a star weave community at Vanya's gallery cafe, downtown Apia, Samoa. 2016
Every time I look at pictures of Samoa, I get emotional. This place holds so much memory and happiness and simplicity for me. Earlier this year, my mother made the move back to Samoa to help look after my grandmother. I think this is such an honourable part of our culture, to give your elderly full time care. Of course, back in the day, this was a normal thing to do. You just did it. It's been incredible seeing my mother look after her mother. She works so hard and will speak her mind, even to grandma. You can never be too old to throw a tantrum! Thank goodness my mama is loving and gentle as well as firm and direct.
I was a bit nervous going to Samoa, strange but true. I think this is because they're my mob and I feel they can see so much more of me, more than others. There is the curiosity of how I practise my Samoan culture out in the world, even more so because I am spear heading this massive project. I have felt nothing but love, admiration and respect from my Samoan community. I always feel a bit apprehensive about how people will receive it, no matter which community or country I go in to, but it quickly melted away because I felt empowered being on country and being in Samoa with my parents.
A quick story of my time there, which reminded me that we are not perfect and that we make mistakes and that sometimes all we can do is say, 'Sorry.' I was invited to teach a community of mental health patients how to weave stars. They had a children's program on that day too, so the organisers brought the 2 groups of adults and children together and we had a great weaving session. There was a man who lost an arm and as I was giving out the ribbon, I assumed that he wouldn't want to weave a star but to watch others. When I came around to check on how everyone was going, he asked me for some ribbon. I said, 'Of course' feeling happy that he was confident to ask and that he wanted to give it a go. He then said to me, 'why didn't you give me ribbon the first time. Did you think that I could not do it because I have one arm.' I was mortified and quickly apologised and offered to teach him. He was happy to make one and I realised how quickly we can make judgements without intending to be offensive. I was happy to be taught something that day. He ended up making 2 stars and he was so respectful and treated me with such high regard that I felt a bit unworthy.
Sometimes people just need some time and attention and star weaving or doing any kind of therapeutic craft can create this. I couldn't share any photos of these mental health patients for safety and security reasons, which made me feel even more privileged to go into their community. This is definitely a community that is close to my heart, their carers and supporters are phenomenal and inspiring and it makes me even more proud, to be Samoan.