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Homegrown Plus: Traditional Dance from American Samoa

Student Association For Fa'asamoa (SAFF) at American Samoa Community College, 25 men and women in traditional Samoan attire stand outdoors in front of a covered pavilion.

The Student Association For Fa’asamoa (SAFF) at American Samoa Community College.
Photo Courtesy of SAFF.

We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus series with a presentation of Siva Samoa, or traditional dance, from American Samoa. In addition to the dance video, the blog features an interview with Eti Eti, one of the members of the dance group.

Both the original premiere of the dance video and this Homegrown Plus blog are part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Find more Library of Congress and U.S. Government programs celebrating Asian Pacific heritage at this link.

The dance video was created by the Student Association For Fa’asamoa, a program of the Samoan Studies Institute at American Samoa Community College. The Samoan Studies Institute’s mission is to ensure and promote the continuity of Samoan culture, traditions, language, and heritage. In addition to offering academic courses and an associate’s degree in Samoan Studies, they organize cultural programs, engage in research and publication, and offer Samoan language translation and interpretation.

The Student Association For Fa’asamoa is one of the institute’s most successful cultural programs. Founded in 2009, SAFF is a club comprised of students at the college who are interested in learning about Samoan culture. Its purpose is to teach college students the Fa’asamoa, or the Samoan way, and to preserve its traditions. Since its inception, SAFF has been active in performing the Siva Samoa and in teaching and practicing other Samoan customs including modes of dress, foodways, and folklore. For their Homegrown video, the SAFF dancers performed a 30-minute program of traditional dances in several locales at the college, under the direction of Molitogi Lemana. See the video below!

 

In our interview, I talked with Eti Eti, a member of SAFF, about Samoan culture and the activities of the Samoan Studies Institute. In the video, we discuss the Samoan language, the concept of fa’asamoa, the relationship of American Samoa to the United States and to the nation of Samoa, and the effects of global and local events on the Samoan way of life. Watch it in the player below!

 

[Transcript of Interview]

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the interview at this link.

You can also find them on YouTube, with the concert here at this link and the interview at this link.

Collection Connections

If you enjoyed the dance video and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to SAFF’s mission.

Archival Collections

During her time at the National Endowment for the Arts, folklorist Bess Lomax Hawes helped create a position for a folk arts coordinator at the American Samoa Council on Culture, Arts and Humanities. From 1987 to 1994, she visited Samoa several times, and collected information on poetry, music, dance, and other culture from Samoa. The documents in Hawes’s collection relating to Samoan culture total almost 500 pages. They include correspondence with folklorist and poet John Enright, a faculty member of American Samoa Community College, whom she helped hire as American Samoa’s first Folk Arts Coordinator; articles and poems by Samoan folklorist Caroline Sinaviana, also a former faculty member of American Samoan Community College and a founder of their Samoan Studies program; Jacob Wainwright Love’s 1979 doctoral dissertation on Samoan songs and dances; correspondence with Samoan writer and historian John Kneubuhl; and poems by prominent Samoan poet Eti Sa’aga. Find them at this link!

The American Folklife Center’s holdings also include wax cylinder recordings of traditional Samoan music from the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893; documentation of Samoan music and dance in the Fahnestock South Seas Collection; and a recording of a performance by the Samoan Folk group, Iseula, at the Carter Inaugural concert in January 1977. These can be researched by visiting or contacting us at the Library of Congress–the info is at this link!

Event Videos

In 2016, Rep. Aumua Amata, American Samoa’s third Member of Congress and the first woman elected to the House from American Samoa, gave a talk titled “Generations of Samoan Culture and History.” She was joined by two dancers performing the Siva Samoa, and Library curators discussing Samoan items found in a variety of Library collections. Find the video at this link.

Guides and Essays

Find a guide to AFC collections related to American Samoa at this link.

Find the Main Reading Room’s guide to Asian American and Pacific Islander Materials at this link.

Blogs

Honoring Vernacular Sounds: AFC Recordings on the National Recording Registry looks at the Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection Recorded at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago, which includes cylinder recordings of Samoan music.

Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. The idea of the Homegrown Plus series is to gather concert videos, video interviews with the musicians, and connections to Library of Congress collections together in one place for our subscribers. (Find the whole Homegrown Plus series here!)

For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

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