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August 21, 2017 | by  | in One Ocean |
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One Ocean

Palemia Book Launch

I remember when I was still very young, my mother asked me who my social science teacher was. Then she asked, “who were the first people that discovered Samoa?” My colonised and textbook-minded self answered proudly: European whalers and traders. My mother shook her head. I tried again: “It was that Roggeveen guy, wasn’t it? Bougainville? Uh John Williams? The Germans? Wait, I got it! The Missionaries?” I was wrong again.

My mother told me bluntly: “IT WAS OUR PEOPLE! THE SAMOANS!”

I had been so caught up with studying and memorising everything that was taught about our history in European textbooks that it never occurred to me that our Pasifika people discovered all these islands before the papālagi did.

The launch of  Palemia, the autobiography of Sāmoan Prime Minister Tuila’epa Lupesoli’ai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, reminded me of that talk with my mum. I was especially moved by Peter Swain’s speech during which he stated that “the writing of political memoirs, although not seemingly common in the Pacific, is an age-old pastime.” I realised that we could be doing much better with the recording of Pasifika leaders’ invaluable knowledge and experience.

For me, the book launch was a great reminder that we should continue to work towards decolonising our minds, our beliefs, and our ways of life. It also emphasised the fact that we need more Pasifika writers, artists, and teachers if we want to ensure the longevity of the inspiring legacies of the inhabitants of our region.

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