Detail of a tapa cloth

Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa – Sāmoan Language Week 2020

Tālofa! Susū mai! Afio mai! Maliu mai! Welcome to our Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa – Sāmoan Language Week (Sunday 24 May-Saturday 30 May 2020)

This year’s theme is Tapena sou ōso mo lau malaga/Prepare yourself a gift for your travels. The theme provides an opportunity to reflect on preparations for different journeys. Covid-19 has brought about a new way of journeying online and that’s what we are celebrating this year. The ōso/gift of not only resources but ongoing relationships, collaborations and wellbeing are important, especially so during these challenging times.  Enjoy these gifts below as you celebrate Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa.

Documentaries and film

Tune into our media playlist dedicated to Sāmoan language, culture, and history. The playlist includes documentaries on Sāmoan identity, profiles of artists, and feature-length and short films.

With Sāmoa’s Independence Day celebrations following directly on from Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa, the playlist also includes items specific to this occasion. There are documentaries incorporating historical footage, televised specials of past celebrations, and a radio broadcast from 1966 where the Head of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University reviews the first years of Sāmoan independence.

Access the playlist


Language barriers are often thought to prevent communication, but Sāmoan-New Zealand artist Ashley Tofa has used the idea of barriers to communicate personal and cultural issues in her photographic self-portraits. Last year, three of Ashley’s Honours year self-portraits were acquired for our Art Collection. Since then, Ashley has attracted international attention for her 2019 master’s submission, Fa’amoemoega (Expectation), and has been shortlisted for the Sony World Photography Awards.

Ashley Tofa, Loimata o Apaula, 2016. Giclee print. 841 x 1189mm. Currently located at South Auckland Campus - Te Papa Ako o Tai Tonga.

Ashley Tofa, Loimata o Apaula, 2016. Giclee print. 841 x 1189mm. Currently located at South Auckland Campus – Te Papa Ako o Tai Tonga.

Read more about Ashley Tofa


Fāgogo: fables from Sāmoa is a great online language tool that uses recordings made in Sāmoa in the 1960s. `Learning the language through listening to fāgogo is based on a medium that is natural and culturally powerful,’ explains Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin in the site’s introduction. To cater to different levels of learners, the Sāmoan and English transcriptions can be displayed or hidden while playing the tracks.

Listen to a fāgogo


The depth and breadth of Sāmoan research is a richly woven ʻie toga/fine mat that shows the interrelationships of content, knowledge creation and community in Sāmoan culture and contribution to Pacific indigenous research.

Sāmoan graduate, Saili Lemalu Aukuso turned her Master’s thesis entitled O le taiala Samoan bilingual unit: a case study of the dual medium programme in the New Zealand context (2002) into a book, leading to wider reach of her research. But language is not only about the spoken word, it can be beneficial for numeracy too. Lasela Tilomai Lafaele found in her Master’s thesis Interactions between Language Fluency and Mathematics Learning and Achievement for Senior Secondary Samoan students (2016) that language fluency had positive impacts on the performance of Samoan students learning in New Zealand schools1.

While we look to this research as a celebration of the Sāmoan language, it is also important to celebrate the research methodologies used, such as Talanoa, Tafatola and , that form respectful collaborations between researchers and their communities2. These methodologies are part of an ongoing journey, as expressed in Rae Si’ilata’s Doctoral thesis, one of our most downloaded and viewed theses at the University of Auckland: Va‘a Tele: Pasifika learners riding the success wave on linguistically and culturally responsive pedagogies (2014).2

Read Rae Si’ilata’s Doctoral thesis

Discover more

  • Delve into key resources about Pacific histories, cultures, languages and research, within the  Pacific Studies subject guide.
  • Search  for Sāmoan language, customs and social life resources using the Catalogue.
  • Explore other events happening throughout Tāmaki Makarau listed on the Ministry for Pacific People’s events calendar.

Manuia le Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa!

Compiled by William Hamill, Media Services, Lara Thomas, Art Collection, Jo Birks, Cultural Collections, Simon Esling, Research Services, and the wider Pacific Language Weeks Te Tumu Herenga Libraries and Learning Services aiga/family.


  1. The research outputs of the Sāmoan researchers mentioned above are available in the University of Auckland Research Repository, ResearchSpace.
  2. See these examples within ResearchSpace:
    Architecture and climate change
    Preserving traditional cultural expressions
    Identity through dance as a Samoan in Aotearoa