1918 Influenza Epidemic In Samoa Remembered In Dance

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

New Zealand group honors memory of lives lost to epidemic

By Sarafina Sanerivi

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 15, 2016) – The year 1918 is one of the most unforgettable years in the history of Samoa.

The Epidemic Influenza left a huge scar because it took away the lives many loved ones.

A dance group from New Zealand called Le Moana Group has put together a show called "1918" to honor the memories of all the lives lost to the Influenza.

The Director of 1918 and Artist Director of the Le Moana Group, Tupe Lualua said the idea to put together the show came about while doing her post-graduate studies at Victoria University.

"I attended a lecture by Dr John Mclane whose Phd thesis investigated the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918," she said.

"Some of the key images that came to me after that presentation, linked to memories that were passed down to us from my Nana, who was four years old in 1918 and lived to reach 100 years old."

Ms. Lualua said she was inspired and the idea for the show was born.

"The goal was to explore and present a creative interpretation of what we had learned about that devastating time in Samoa’s history."

The exciting news is that they have been invited to bring the show to Samoa by the National University of Samoa. Ms. Lualua said she is "ecstatic, honoured, privileged and humbled" by the invitation.

“As a descendant of Sāmoa whose work is heavily influenced by Sāmoan stories, I feel like it is my obligation to present this work in the place where it actually happened.”

Moreover, Ms. Lualua saw an opportunity to engage and communicate with the students and staff at N.U.S about portraying our stories and upholding our cultural values through the art of dancing, singing and acting.

Asked about what to expect from the show, Ms. Lualua said the "choreography" will be one of the highlights.

“The original choreographer for this work is Andy Tilo, a graduate of Whitireia Performing Arts currently dancing for Black Grace, he brought the contemporary dance aspect to the floor and I did my best to ground it in Siva Sāmoa, these dance styles are a strong feature in the work."

But the Artist and Director admits that putting together the show was no easy task.

One of the obstacles they faced was getting access to stories from the Samoan Community "as most of the people with the knowledge have passed on."

"From a research perspective, that has been difficult and we feel that there is still a lot more research that needs to be done and many more stories to express through performance."

Money was another obstacle.

"We are a new company and none of us are in the financial position to do this full time, therefore we constantly have to juggle our other life commitments in order to fulfill our passion for performance."

Other than that, the group is looking forward to come to Samoa. She said their trip to Samoa would be the experience of a lifetime.

As a group made up of mixture descendants of Maori, European, Niuean, Samoan and Cook-Islands, Ms. Lualua said they are thrilled to come to Samoa.

"We look forward to sharing our passion for dance but even more so, to engage with the local artists and learn more about the richness of Sāmoa and how it will influence our future as performers.”

The group will arrive on Thursday 27 January and will be based at the National University of Samoa from the 2nd- 5th of February.

Le Moana was established in July 2012. Le Moana is a vessel for the exchange of stories, concepts and ideas through the medium of Pacific dance, theatre and film.

Ms. Lualua is a graduate of Pacific Studies at Victoria University of Wellington and the internationally renowned Whitireia Performing Arts. With a background in Samoa, Cook Islands, Maori and Contemporary dance, her work is translated to diverse audiences through performances by the Le Moana collective.

Ms. Lualua was born and raised in Porirua, Wellington. Her parents migrated to New Zealand from Samoa. Her father is from Fusi, Safata and Savaia, Lefaga and her mother is from Leusoali’i, Luatuanu’u and Safune, Savai’i.

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