Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 - SEUMANUTAFA LOLIGI Family Reunion

Each year the Auckland Seumanutafa Loligi organising committee is responsible for fundraising activities and co-ordinating the family reunion festivities. Tasks such as contacting family members who are both interested and uninterested, the issuing of invitations to attend events, setting meetings with few or no one attending is not only tiring but unrewarding. However the strong leadership and dedication of a few of the family members on the organising committee such as Fepulea'i Cochise Avei, Rita Hughes Scott, Amituana'i Siaki Avei, Reverend Pita Uo, Punipuniolo Aiono, Opelu Foutanu Lino, Maletina (Williams) Dawson led by Fepulea'i Tautia Levi has kept the focus on meeting financial targets steady in a way that has never been achieved before in the history of family fundraising. The strong growth in commitment of the 3rd and 4th generation to support the goals and targets of the 1st and 2nd generation settlers is motivated by their realisation that there is a need to identify a central place of origin in Samoa to maintain genealogical links. In this case it is the Apia family homestead of Seumanutafa Loligi and Simeanamulu Mulitalo Mapuona that all have access to and shall be rebuilt to ensure family members may return to live there whenever they choose.


The 2010 annual Auckland Seumanutafa Loligi family reunion was a great exercise in socialisation, with opportunities for the descendants to observe some of the traditional Samoan skills around speech making, umu cooking, dancing, engagement, celebration, respect and an acknowledgemnt of God's goodness. It was a festive occasion enjoyed by at least 5 different generations who could trace their lineage to Seumanutafa but more importantly it was recognition of the mass migration of many Seumanutafa Loligi descendants to places abroad, the majority of whom had settled in Aotearoa New Zealand. It was a chance to cement genealogical links. It was a chance to enjoy the God given network of family relationshps. It was an occasion to celebrate FAMILY.

Seumanutafa Loligi and his wife Simeanamulu Mulitalo Mapuona from Apia, Samoa had 14 children and 84 grandchildren. Despite their extensive kinship and village links, it has been the re/settlement of many of their successive generations outside of Apia that has made the annual family reunions a necessary meeting point to strengthen family ties and to build upon the legacy Seumanutafa Loligi sought to establish with his children. There is growing recognition and identification by many of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation of the need to preserve links and equitable access to the Apia family homestead as the domain for all family members.

Almost 100 years ago in Samoa, Seumanutafa Loligi began an annual family pilgrimage to Simeanamulu Mulitalo Mapuona’s village in Saoluafata on New Years Day that is still continued by successive generations today. The annual pilgrimage was Seumanutafa Loligi’s gift to Simeanamulu Mulitalo Mapuona to mark her birthday (born 01/01/1890) and was organised as a time of thanksgiving to God that cemented family and village connections. The Auckland reunions are based on similar principles but the plan to rebuild the family homestead of Seumanutafa Loligi and Simeanamulu is a key goal that will begin this year.

The day began with Pastor Pita Uo opening the family reunion in prayer with a time of remembrance for those who had departed from the family.

Four of the six surviving children of Seumanutafa Loligi and Simeanamulu Mulitalo Mapuona were present. Several members spoke including the family matai Leiataua Lesa Fa’atoafe Sinave Seumanutafa who emphasised the need for collective support to achieve family goals. The 3 matriarchs all in their 80s, Tofuinu’u Hughes, Faifuaina Aiono and Rosita Iona Levi were surprised at the high calibre of the various items performed by each of the family branches and displayed little difficulty with swaying and dancing along with music throughout the day.

At least 100 attended on the day and participated in the events held at the home of Uluomato’otua and Margaret Aiono.
The chairperson of the family organising committee, Fepulea’i Tautia Levi stated “the goal of the day is for the family to work together to raise funds to rebuild the home of our grandparents so that all descendants can return to it but it is also a day for the younger generations to mix, learn about our culture, our family connections and thank God”. Others like Fepulea’i Cochise Avei were grateful for the presence of the elderly aunts and uncle who gave special meaning to the day. Eleitino Patricia Pogai was particularly moved by the representation of the differing generational groups, in particular the presence of her 87 year old mother. Opelu Foutanu Lino was proud to keep the memory of his mother Sepelini alive. For some of the 3rd and 4th generation descendants, a sense of urgency to retain family stories and take numerous photographs at family reunions had become a focal point for their attendance.

The first item performed by the Vaova'i Uo branch was superb. Graceful, rhythmic and reminiscent of the 'dusky maidens of the South Seas", the Uo girls were vibrant in colour and presence. They were a captivating picture of pacific charm and elegance.

The Tofuinu'u Hughes branch performed some karaoke songs between humourous outbursts that sent the crowd roaring with laughter. When Tofuinu'u took centre stage with the Samoan siva, her majestic control of the traditional dance and confident composure left everyone staring at her in wonder. Though well into her 80s, she left many hoping to be just as energetic at that age.
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The Faifuaina Aiono branch sang an English hymn in multiple tunes and were brave enough to perform a Samoan siva that perplexed onlookers with their alternative style moves. Faifuaina attempted to take centre stage for the Samoan siva but refused to part without her handbag which she kept firmly clasped to her shoulder. As is common in Samoan dance settings, money and dancing go hand in hand. The Aiono branch have become masters of the abstract form of Samoan siva.

As the Rosita Iona Levi item unravelled itself there was a sense that the items were beginning to heat up and that the standard had somehow lifted from the previous year. And the Rosita branch did not disappoint. They were contemporary with momentary glimpses of traditional Samoa. The Rosita branch moved into the Samoan siva section accompanied by Rosita Iona Levi who glided across with the ease of one experienced with being at the fore front.

The Oriana Avei branch put on an outstanding dance performance to a medley of songs that saw them moving in sync. They came back to the 2010 reunion with an even more polished set of movements that set them apart from everyone else. The Oriana Avei dance school has set up shop and had other young members from other branches deciding not to be so lax next year.

Moana Seumanuatafa led the siva for the branch of Leiataua Lesa Fa'atoafe Sinave Seumanutafa. Everyone joined in with clapping and whistling as Moana remained intent upon keeping her movements in time with the music while supported by her parents and others who joined in to dance alongside.

The final dance for the Moetuasivi Holland branch was performed by Bill and his wife Jenny who took the lead. Once again Jenny's performance of the Samoan siva was controlled by her smooth and confident movements and their son Max took comfort in the aiuli.

And so ended the day with a lot more dancing that was etched and scratched by the DJ HB who played old school songs that had many up and dancing. From teaching the young how to make and prepare an umu to dancing the Samoan siva, there were young children swimming in the pool, others playing volleyball, touch, cricket, dance performances and the sharing of family stories. Much appreciation and thanks to Kirita and her brother Rob Avei for taking control of the sporting activities. Thanks also to those who prepared the food, music and clearing away of furniture and rubbish at the end of the event.

For all those present on the day the legacy of Seumanutafa Loligi and Simeanamulu Mulitalo Mapuona that family is founded on God is still very much alive today for their descendants in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The following photographs were taken by Kirita Avei on the day.