“Reclaiming our tongue”: Super Rugby speaking Samoan
By Lefaoali'i Dion Enari
Seeing the Samoan language spoken on prime time television was a proud moment for all Samoans around the world. Although we see many brown faces on the Super Rugby field, very rarely do we hear our language in these spaces.
Growing up watching rugby on T.V, the only time I would see our language, was either during snippet crowd shots or when the Manu Samoa Captain would speak. These instances would generally be from Island born Samoans who felt more comfortable speaking in their first language and knowing that in doing so, they would be reaching out to the elders and every proud Samoan, at home and across the globe.
Now, there is an influx of New Zealand and Australian born Samoan rugby players’ reclaiming their mother tongue. Many of this group were raised speaking English as a first language, with little to no formal education in Samoan. Despite this, many in this group still value its importance. Examples of diaspora born embracing the language include, Togafau Scott Sio’s video in support of Samoan language week, to the more recent interview by Sa’u Patrick Tuipulotu and commentary by Fa’alogo Tana Umaga.
It is important to acknowledge, that for diaspora born, it would be easier for them to only speak English. However, this group’s conscious and deliberate use of the Samoan language is driven by their desire to see their culture reflected within the rugby landscape. (Re)claiming the Samoan language among these rugby players is their way of drawing upon the mana (power) of their (mother)land, it also strengthens their connection to their village oceans, mountains, chiefly lineage and family.
Irrespective of place of birth, Samoan rugby players will gain strength from their cultural identity and family. With the indigenous reawakening and increase of Maori and Pasifika players, it is in Super Rugby’s best interest to invest in their cultural welfare. Using Maori and Pasifika languages and cultures is not only a form of inclusion, but also a way these players can draw upon their unique, royal knowledge systems. Who knows maybe one day we will see a full Super Rugby interview in the Samoan language with English subtitles? Until then fa’amalosi Aukilani.
Lefaoali’i Dion Enari is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Society and Design, Bond University, Gold Coast. He holds a Master of International Relations and Ali’i Tulafale Matai (high talking Chief) title from Lepa, Samoa. His research interests include ethnography, Pacific language, cultural sustainability, indigenous studies, and trans-nationalism.
He is from the villages of Lepa, Malaela, Vaiala, Nofoali’i and Safune.