Snorkelling in Samoa.
I LOVE going home to Samoa. I mean, I really really really love, going to Samoa. Everything about it, the weather, the smell of the air, village life, art & craft, responsibilities, opportunities, everything – I love. One day, I plan to live there and grow taro and bananas and run weaving workshops with locals and tourists : )
It’s been a while since I last posted because it’s been a quiet time for the Million Stars project, so I thought I’d share some pics and reflections from our family’s recent trip to Samoa. It’s always a big effort to pack our family of 5 up and travel overseas. We’re pretty versed at travel and have got packing and airport etiquette down pat (thanks to 2 well-travelled parents). But we do love a good holiday and the timing of this Samoa trip for our little fam was perfect. Of course, we came back exhausted, tanned and wanting to stay in Samoa longer but I had a few gold moments reflecting on life, art and bigger purpose questions….must be that tropical air!
Dad's bbq and baskets of coconut and taro.
Going home to Samoa and visiting family has always been a good remedy for my sadness. Just like weaving is good for my soul and critical for managing my mental health, going home to Samoa is like good medicine for me too. I get loved on by family, the land and ocean and I learn more about what it means to be Samoan and some of the challenges and opportunities living there present. I’m not exactly sure when the sadness started for me, but it’s been around for a long time. It almost feels like an old friend or relative. I don’t like to talk about it much, only to close friends and support, but mental health is something that I care about a lot and understand as being complex and common. I’ve found some great ways to cope with my sadness, weaving and making, being close to water, friends and family. There are lots of ways to deal with sadness, depression and anxiety and it’s great to see more people talking about it in public. This time away, I got to think of the many weaving workshops that I’ve taught over the years, and the stories of joy and calm that others experience. I felt super proud and gave myself a high five! I’ve done so many that I forget just how impactful they are. I come across people who met me years ago in one of my basket weaving workshops. It’s like meeting extended family for the first time. It’s beautiful! Weaving and making, and seeing other’s weaving and make, often lifts me out of sadness, but also reminds me that I’m ok, however low I’m feeling.
My malu. They are like our history books, with marks of our skies, land and ocean. Malu by tufuga tatatau (master tattooist) Li'aifaiva.
During this trip, I reached another life milestone and received my malu, an ancient Samoan tattoo across both thighs, reserved for our women. In earlier days, the daughters of high chiefs and village taupo’s (princesses/special women) would receive malu, but today it is practised more widely to keep this powerful story of culture, connection and responsibility alive. Malu is a symbol of responsibility, to be the shelter and carer for your family and communities. Getting these markings with my sister and soa was very special and one of the happiest days of my life. My tufuga (Master tattooist), Li’aifaiva Lavea Levi, gifted me many stars in my malu, reminding me of my love and work to shine and protect light and goodness in our communities.
This moment of receiving malu was a big deal, a moment of initiation. In my heart I knew what it meant for me, I had been preparing for some time and even the pain of being marked with traditional tools, the au, felt like preparation for my next journey in life, an acknowledgement of what I had come through and a blessing to go on and do more, to live more and give more. I now have my own stars, etched on my skin, connecting me to light above and within. Such a huge honour. I have never been more in love with a tattoo before!!
On our way to our family plantation with tiapula - taro cuttings.
One of my fave experiences of being in Samoa this time, was going to my father’s plantation in Lufilufi. I got to visit the bit of land where my grandparents worked the land to raise enough funds for my parents to fly to New Zealand to start a new life. I had a moment where I could almost see them, bent over, in the early morning planting young shoots of taro and clearing the land before the heat of the sun arrived. My life started there. On that small taro patch, 40 years ago. My parents didn’t have any grand plans, just courage to leave their island home, their parents and siblings, to start a new life with their new baby girl in Auckland and then eventually with another baby girl (my beautiful sis) in Melbourne, Australia. I’m so glad they took that chance. It has given generations after them opportunities to serve and create and give back. I don’t ever want to forget that.
Now my dad is working the plantation to stay active, to help rebuild family relationships and to share some of his knowledge with his children and grandchildren. He is returning home and that means so much to him and his legacy.
Collecting taro shoots, receiving our malu, cooking, swimming, chats with friends and family and shopping in Apia has all contributed to ideas for new work. There was a time when I was worried that no new work ideas were coming to me because it was all about the stars. Since Samoa and with time after reaching one million stars, I am getting my making flow back on and it feels good. I’m getting excited for the installation in Brisbane for Festival2018 and GC2018 and the continued impact that the stars are making in Australia and around the world. I can’t wait to make new work and explore other mediums and have more conversations about who were are and what we care about as Australians, Pacific Islanders and people of the world. Taking a break, and stepping away from Australia has brought me some valuable perspective and that feels wonderful. I’ve got some exciting exhibitions coming up in the next 2 years and who knows what else will eventuate after the stars are up. Keep trusting, keep moving, keep talking and doing things that bring you calm and joy. There’s a lot of love and support out there. We just need to ask.
Love and light