25 May 2010

'O le lima e paia le mata

While we are on the topic of labels, I thought I would explore another label I have been smacked with in my time...


The funny thing is, I don't think I ever got called a Palagi by just about anyone until I lived in Samoa, and the people referring to me as Palagi were Samoans!  If only they knew.  Or even if they did know, would that have changed anything?  I know a few times it would have because I bummed a few people out.

The most memorable was while out on my own watching some sport and very much minding my own business, I caught a man sitting further down from me confidently exclaiming to his friends in Samoan that I knew absolutely nothing about fa'asamoa.  I looked up at the unfamiliar face just as one of his friends was telling the guy that I in fact did know something of fa'asamoa and understood what he was saying as he had heard me talking Samoan earlier.  With all confidence gone, I never saw the guy again.

Sure I have fair skin, but what is it that possesses a Samoan to assume I am clueless about fa'asamoa?  And to declare this right in-front of me? 

One thing I know for sure is I am Samoan.  I have a history, a culture and a tradition I share with every other Samoan, irrespective of where I was born.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.

17 May 2010

who am i?

After my very minimal attempt at researching the word 'afakasi on Google, I found that according to Urban Dictionary there are two definitions for the word.  The second definition I really cannot cope with while the first one I can as it is very much in line with my definition: derived from the word half-caste, 'afakasi is a Samoan term which refers to a person with one Samoan parent and one Palagi parent.

Often throughout my life I have been asked the questions "What are you?" and "Where are you from?" to which, in more recent years, I have responded with "a human being" and "I am from New Zealand" knowing full well the answer they are actually searching for is an explanation for the way I look - Polynesian yet fair skinned.  Every time I get asked those questions the person is usually sure I am Māori and checking to be polite or feels a need to label me for whatever reason as they are quite unsure of my race and ethnicity.

History all over the world tells us the word half-caste was very much a derogatory term and I firmly believe the term 'afakasi is derogatory today although maybe not as widely.  The thought of someone that does not know who I am calling me 'afakasi makes my insides churn because today it seems, being called 'afakasi goes beyond describing genealogy and extends to describing the understanding of an 'afakasi's own ethnicity and culture.

As an 'afakasi, I am not a human being roaming this earth doomed to incompleteness for the rest of my life because I am merely half of something and half of something else.  I am a complete human being who carries my genealogy as a whole - Samoan and Palagi side by side - even if I do not know every single detail due to factors beyond my control.  I do not pick and choose things Samoan with an air of ignorance and arrogance to make up half my identity because I am not just half.  You can look at me and stop at the fair skin, however it takes a brave person to go deeper and find out not what I am, but who I am.

This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.