Lumanaʻi O Samoa Showcases Culture for PIR Week


Rhea Quemado

Members of Lumanaʻi O Samoa displayed various outfits from their culture in a fashion show for Pacific Island Review Week.

Lumanaʻi O Samoa club historian John Iose was pleased to share his culture Wednesday night, and one of his motivations for doing so was to educate others around him to have more respect. Iose, who was raised in American Samoa, shared that he’s experienced situations with other students where derogatory remarks were made, such as, “Do you live in grass huts?” or “Don’t pineapples grow on trees there?” as well as inappropriate comments regarding his ‘ie lavalava, which is a traditional piece of cloth wrapped around the lower body. 

“I feel like it’s a good thing to share our culture. I’ve worn this ‘ie so many times around campus and somebody said, ‘Are you wearing a man skirt?’” Iose said. “Sometimes it feels like it’s racist against us, you know? I keep my cool, but it’s gotten to a point where we need to tell people what our culture is and what it’s about. It’s good to educate people on each culture because it’s not something to joke about. Some cultures are sacred and not to be made fun of. It’s offensive.”

Wednesday night was Lumanaʻi O Samoa’s time to shine for Pacific Island Review week, and its members kept the agenda packed with food, live dance, games, and education from its culture to display to the Silversword community to enjoy, with club president Alycia Tausaga, a third-year Environmental Science major, on the mic informing those in attendance about Samoan culture. 

“It was just breathtaking,” Iose said. “Finally being able to put yourself out there and being so introverted, I feel like Chaminade and its clubs really impacts you on changing your communication skills and how people look at you as a person in general.”

The second year Forensic Science major and Chemistry minor drew inspiration for the performance from his parents, who he has not seen since before the pandemic due to COVID-19 travel restrictions to American Samoa.

“I dance as if my parents were watching me,” he said. “Since they’re back home in American Samoa, life’s been tough you know? It’s weird not being with your parents for so long, and at this young age you wish to be with them and celebrate every victorious moment with them.”

The night opened with guests being encouraged to try two traditional Samoan dishes: pani popo and koko alaisa. Pani popo is a yeast bread with sweetened coconut milk poured over that folks look forward to eating after church services on Sunday evenings. Koko alaisa or koko rice is a childhood comfort food made from freshly-made Samoan cacao, rice, sugar, and coconut milk.

As a first-year Forensic Science student at Chaminade, this was Kaʻimipono Abella’s first time ever experiencing PIR, and he was thoroughly impressed by LOS’ entire performance. 

Lumanaʻi O Samoa, whose name translates to “Future of Samoa,” kicked off with a fashion show. The members of LOS exhibited a wide array of attire that the Samoan people wear for various occasions, adorned in outfits for church, celebrations, doing chores, and for casual everyday wear. 

“I didn’t know there were so many different fashion statements you could make. They showed traditional outfits, but also outfits you can wear just on a day-to-day basis or to parties and it’s really nice because it’s a way for people to express themselves,” Abella said. 

Next, LOS continued the festivities with games. Recruiting volunteers from the audience, the members played a game where participants were split into two teams and instructed to race to the center of the field for a ball. They then were supposed to return to their team without being tagged. 

The finale of the event included a string of dance performances by LOS. Josephine “Fina” Iose, the older sister to John Iose and the president of the Chaminade student government, dressed head to toe in traditional Samoan dress designated exclusively for a specific role in Samoan culture called the taupou. 

“I really liked how when Fina was dancing the audience and other members of the club got involved with her dancing to support her,” Abella said. “They were throwing dollar bills at her and stuff, so it was really fun to see how even though it’s showcasing her culture, how so much people have so much support for her dancing, and also how she can keep her composure while dancing like that.”

Pacific Island Review at Chaminade is the biggest event during the fall semester. Given COVID restrictions, what used to be one night of every cultural club’s performances, music, and food, has manifested itself into a weeklong display with each club dedicated their own day to share. 

“We’ve been participating in PIR for forever, ever since we started our club,” Tausaga said. “It’s such an amazing experience to showcase our Samoan culture with the Chaminade community and just be able to bring a sense of home here in our new home that we built here at Chaminade.” 

Tausaga has been a part of every performance since her freshman year, and recounted that PIR in pre-pandemic times had a lot more flexibility on the ways they were able to showcase themselves. Last year during COVID-19, there were a lot less resources available to them. She expressed gratitude for finally being able to showcase a live performance after being prohibited by the pandemic.

“Props to our administration and everybody that’s been implementing all the rules and regulations to make us able to do more performances and just showcasing a lot of the Samoan culture with everybody due to less restrictions that we have now, while at the same time maintaining 6 feet [of] distance and wearing masks and whatnot, just staying safe,” Tausaga said. 

Due to the borders of American Samoa being temporarily closed for COVID-19, a lot of students were not able to go home and be with their families during the pandemic. Tausaga hoped for Lumana‘i O Samoa’s performance to serve as an outlet for those to have a taste of home in the meantime.

“For me personally, it’s just sharing and telling our Chaminade community [that] although we come from a small island, I like to say that we’re tiny but mighty,” Tausaga said. “I hope that by sharing our values that we grew up with, it fosters and creates another sense of family so that wherever you go, you’ll always find family wherever or whatever parts of the world you’ll be in.”