Study into Samoan matai overseas gets major grant
A study into Samoan matai living overseas has received a major grant New Zealand's biggest science fund.
A study into Samoan chiefs or matai living outside Samoa has received $550,000 US dollars from New Zealand's biggest science fund.
Misatauveve Dr Melani Anae from the University of Auckland will use the Marsden Fund grant to interview fellow matai in Australia, Hawai'i and Utah.
She told Karen Mangnall it's important to find out how they decide about giving money, fine mats and time and who they think will benefit.
MISATAUVEVE DR MELANI ANAE: Well it's important because Samoan leadership, especially the fa'amatai system, is being threatened at the moment by misunderstandings about what it is and the benefit of matai who are not in Samoa are providing for families back in Samoa. There's people who maintain that these transnational matai are really not contributing anything except their own self advantage in terms of the benefits that can accrue from being a matai and taking on a matai job.
KM: Is there a feeling that the overseas matai are not real matai?
MDMA: Yes, yes. They are regarded as empty symbols, as a group of savvy well-educated young up-starts who are not in the sacred circle of the fa'amatai of their cultural obligations in terms of support and respect and service that one acquires in the village if they are in Samoa and it's very difficult.
KM: On the part of the matai, especially the ones born outside Samoa, do they feel misunderstood and if so, why?
MDMA: Definitely, because in the stories, in terms of my research, a lot of them feel that they are not worthy. A lot of them think that because they aren't articulate in Fa'a Samoan, they don't know their language, that they will not provide the service that's required to look after their family in Samoa, in New Zealand. So this is some of the myths I want to really break down, and offer kind of coping mechanisms and ways forward for them. Because a lot of them even though they haven't got the language are totally aware of the languages and institutions which make up the Fa'a Samoa. And can express that it English. And that's why I am trying to provide just another perspective on how Matai and the diaspora, why they're accepting these titles. Their misgivings, their experiences, their doubts, so that other matai in waiting in the diaspora will have a better sense of what to expect and in terms of the continuance of the whole Fa'amatai system. Because my concern is that we need to have that family leadership to take us into the next century.
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