6 Jul 2017

Tributes flow for Samoan pioneer of the arts

12:29 pm on 6 July 2017

The passing away of Seiuli Tuilagi Allan Alo Vaai is bringing together many people from different walks of life to pay tribute to a life lived to the fullest.

Allan Alo

Seiuli Tuilagi Allan Alo Vaai (centre) with a group of dancers Photo: Supplied/ Samoa Arts Council

Known as one of the most creative and flamboyant choreographers in the Pacific, he was also a multi-talented dancer, director and pioneer of the arts.

Seiuli had worked hard to set up the Samoa Arts Council when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer last year.

His last projects included work on a Samoa Fashion Week last year, and he opened Samoa's first official dance space.

In his youth he studied in New Zealand before heading back to the region to start a Bachelor degree in Expressive Arts with the University of the South Pacific (USP) and founded the Oceania Dance Theatre.

Seiuli produced many shows for the likes of the Teuila Festival, Hip Hop Challenges, the Small Islands Developing Nations conference to name a few.

He was also the Director for the USP Outreach Programme in Samoa and launched the Samoa Arts Council.

Samoa Arts Council vice president, Saumaiafe Dr Vanya Taule'alo said as well as working together, they were great friends.

Samoa is the poorer for his untimely passing, though he lived longer than what doctors had anticipated, he said.

"He had a huge shock and so did everybody else that his time on earth might be quite limited but he was incredibly positive and he had a strong belief in God and he just thought he'd be cured, and so it's very sad."

Saumaiafe said and he was such an advocate for showcasing Samoan culture, traditional and contemporary performance art forms and he engaged the youth.

Allan Alo

One Seiuli Tuilagi Allan Alo Vaai's pieces being performed Photo: Supplied/ Samoa Arts Council

"He was very loving and caring to youth that he mentored to students in both Fiji and Samoa. If anything, I think his legacy will be watching them grow develop and some of the Fijiian dancers have developed arts schools of their own for dance, and this will be his legacy."

The director of Pacific Dance New Zealand, Sefa Enari said in a recent interview together, that he wanted to give more opportunities for local Samoans to collaborate and travel.

"I think that the Pacific culture and modern arts, is really in focus with his passing and I think we take it for granted that people are going to be here forever to support the growth of the arts within the Pacific as well as New Zealand.

"I think he's done a tremendous job for the Samoan people and it is gonna be a real huge loss for the Pacific region as well as the Samoan community."

Family member Sam Sefuiva said there were two key things that his cousin was passionate about.

"One was to do with faafafine in terms of their plight, and their lifestyle, and putting it out there about contemporary faafafine in Samoa society", he said.

"The second is one that people saw him as a dancer but he was also a choreographer, a producer, and a champion of the arts and in particular dance, and he really pushed all elements and spheres of dance in the Pacific."

Seiuli was a strong advocate for HIV work in the Pacific and he was also very proud to be a faafafine, with many giving testament to his hard work.

Sam Sefuiva said he'd light up any room.

Allan Alo

Seiuli Tuilagi Allan Alo Vaai Photo: Supplied/ Samoa Arts Council

"He filled a room when he walked into it, but he also made sure that people who didn't have a voice were given a voice. He was just a natural personality who was able to inject a confidence and participation for all of those people he met and a really nice guy."

Seiuli was from the villages of Falealupo, Vaisala, Asau, Safotu, Fogapoa, Fatausi and Samatau. He is the youngest child of seven for Alapati Alo Va'ai and Sofaea Tanielu Alo Vaa'i.

He died the day before his 43rd birthday, surrounded by loved ones in New Zealand, and flown to Samoa for burial.