Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A "recklessly bold" venture - The Book of the Aiga of the Galu Afi.

Oute fa’atulou atu I le Mamalu ma le Paia ua fa’atasi mai i lenei Po:
I Atua Mamana o lenei Maota
I Rangatira ma Ariki o Tagata Whenua o Tamaki –Makaurau ma Iwi Eseese o Aotearoa
I Tupu ma Tamaali’i o Atu Motu Eseese o le Pasefika, ae maise Samoa, Amerika Samoa ma Toga lea na mafatia I le Galu Afi
I Ta’ita’i ma tagata o le laumua nei o Aukilani
I e o lo’o Pulea lenei Univesite, fa’apea faiaoga ma tama’ita’i ma ali’i aoga
I le autusitala ma le aufaitau tusi ua fa’atasi mai
I paolo ma gafa eseese o le Susuga ia Joe Keil ma le Susuga ia Lani Wendt Young
Le Vasa Loloa or the Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest geographical feature.
It influences our planet’s climate and therefore our whole environment. We who live in le Vasa Loloa are of that ocean, and that ocean is us.
The Samoan name for it is: Va = Space Between/Connecting, sa = forbidden or sacred, Loloa = long and vast and ancient. So it becomes The-connecting- forbidden-and-sacred-Space-that-is-long-and-vast-and-ancient. That very name tries to convey the Ocean’s vast and profoundly ancient physical, emotional, and spiritual mana.

One of Samoa’s creation/tupuaga chants about Tagaloaalagi, our Supreme Atua and Creator, creating the world and our islands starts with a description of the most important element in our lives, the Vasa Loloa and the various types of galu and peau, waves, of that sea.

Even though Tagaloaalagi created the sea, the vasa loloa, he had huge respect for its awesome power and, when the galu or peau of the vasa loloa became galu lolo or galu afi, he was even mortally afraid of them.

To traverse the vasa loloa safely, Tagaloaalagi threw down stones from the heavens, and used them as his stepping stones across it. Those stepping stones became the islands we now live on. Like Tagaloaalagi, our ancestors, over the hundreds of years they took to explore the vasa loloa and inhabit our islands, came to have a huge respect for that ocean and its power and learned to live with it and enjoy its magnificent bounty, and be afraid of its ferocious might.
On 29 September 2009, we in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga were again reminded of that terrible might. What a frightening unforgiving reminder!

The beautiful Galu Afi, the Tsunami of Fire, swept in and swept out, killing almost 200 of our loved ones, wrecking our homes, settlements, businesses and plantations, leaving us with our sorrow and pain, and the unrelenting reminder that we must never again forget that Le Vasa Loloa can kill us and destroy every thing that we have built and love.

Telling the story of a major event especially a catastrophic event is a very difficult task. Telling the story of it in ways that will capture the hearts and imaginations and attention of readers is even more difficult. We all tell stories, our lives are made up of stories, but that doesn’t mean we all have the ability and experience to tell stories that will hold a reader or listener spellbound for the duration of our tale.

Our lives are burdened with people who believe they are great storytellers but who bore us with their tales! Libraries are full of memoirs, autobiographies, accounts of events, histories etc which, because they are badly told, are not able to live up to and encapsulate the full grandeur and dimensions of the person or event or history being storied. A story is really the teller and the teller’s telling.
The Tsunami of 29 September, which hit parts of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, was a devastating natural disaster.

It affected the lives and environments of the people in the affected areas, it affected the lives of their countries, and the world at large. Its effects have continued to this day. Needless to say, Honorable Joe Keil’s decision that the story of that tsunami should be recorded fully was a recklessly bold one. And perhaps even more reckless when he decided to ask Lani Young, a writer who’d never written a book before, to write that story and do so within the period of a year! I’ve been writing for almost fifty years, but I would never have accepted such an assignment! Like I was in my youthful and foolishly brave 30s, Lani accepted the challenge and I bow to her for doing so and for succeeding so magnificently.

This large book is testimony to Lani’s drive, focus, perseverance, skills as an exceptional and sensitive researcher and interviewer, and ultimately to her ability to select from, write up, and weave together into a beautifully woven ie toga all the hundreds of stories and information from the survivors, witnesses, rescuers, helpers, aid and government organizations, and so forth.

This book, this ie toga, is now the story of the Galu Afi of Sept 29,2009. Lani lets the survivors speak for themselves in their own individual voices, and together their voices, their stories become an orchestrated choir that comes to vibrant life every time we read this gripping, splendid and moving book.
This book is a tribute to those who died, to their lives and courage, and to their loved ones – their relatives and friends – who now have to live with their profound absences and sorrow.

It is also a tribute to all the fortunate survivors and the people who helped: the rescuers, the health workers, the donors from all round the world, and so forth, a tribute to their courage and selfless dedication and hard work. It is a tribute to the unbreakable bonds/ties of aiga/family/village which took hundreds of years to cultivate and weave and which came into wonderful action during and after this crisis.

It is also a tribute to that drive in each of us to help others in times of trouble, need, and helplessness. In such times strangers come to our rescue, and we help strangers. They risk their lives for us and we do the same for them. This book is testament to that: story after story testify to that. And has resulted in new ties/new bonds, to strangers becoming members of our aiga and we of theirs.

This book therefore is about a new and larger aiga/family which the unforgiving ferocity of the Galu Afi brought into being, an aiga which, according to Lani’s book, is already recovering with newfound courage, strength, determination and hope. And when that aiga reads this book, their book, they will be inspired even further to rebuild and ensure that their children will live proudly beyond the Galu Afi’s destructive power, knowing that mana or power can be both destructive and absolutely creative.

It is a great honour for me to have been asked to launch this memorable book which I have subtitled, for myself, The Book of the Aiga of the Galu Afi. I congratulate Joe Keil and Lani Young on producing and writing it, and wish it every success in its journey into and across the Vasa Loloa and the world.
All of your should buy enough copies for your families and friends.
Ia alolofa Atua o le Pasefika ma fa’amanuia mai I lenei fa’atasiga!

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