‘Afakasi Peoples Malaga to Navigate Social Change in Samoan Transnational Communities

The most significant step in which ‘afakasi people add to the development of practices in transnational communities is through individual motivations to discover more about their ancestoral identity.  These personal journeys require the individual to ask brave questions of self and other and also requires the initiation of participation in particular relationships and activities.  As a result this sees the emergance to use creative vehicles for expression to tell these stories and new definitions (intentional or unintentional) of what ‘afakasi looks like and means within our transnational communities.  But it is this desire to explore their unique ancestry that adds value to their desire to actively engage in transnational exchanges in the future.

Some may;

  • Take time out to return to the islands of their parents for full immersion into the culture, language and life.
  • Others may involve simply asking family and elders questions about family.
  • Some use the creative arts as a vehicle for exploration and expression of their identity.
  • Others may attend Samoan language classes with complete strangers.

What Does Transnational Theory Have To Say About ‘Afakasi People?’

Macpherson and Macpherson (2002) suggest that there does exist a decline in ties for second generation Samoans in New Zealand. However, they acknowledge that although these seem weaker, some ties do remain, and focusing on remittances as a measurement for level of transnationlism can detract from the bigger picture when we discuss second generation transnationalism.

The question then becomes what does their practices of transnationalism look like?

Constructing New Identities

This signals a move away from the construction of ethnicity as essentially a descent-based reification, to a definition of ethnicity that emphasises cultural practices and values . . .These changes recognise that ethnicity is socially constructed, situational, unstable, and changes over time and place” (Keddell, E. 2006. p.46).

As echoed by Macpherson (2002) who suggests that the shift in social values in education, economic and career, intermarriages, levels of religious participation and the emergence of new ethnic identities (New Zealand born ‘afakasi).

Kinship & Aiga

Cluny Macpherson and La’avasa Macpherson develop the idea of transnationalism further by discussing the ties and engagement with parent islands.  Developing on the idea of kinship into extended kinship as a measurement of transnationalism. “These shifts in āiga organisation in the enclave may, in turn, influence the ways in which kinship is organised in Samoa for, as noted at the outset, migrant enclaves do not constitute discrete, distant communities but rather sites in which modification and experimentation are legitimated by the necessity of finding Samoan solutions to new social, economic and political realities. Those modifications that seem to meet new needs can find their way back into Samoan ‘traditional’ forms, and in the social space between these two settlements a meta-culture emerges which is neither a ‘migrant’ nor a ‘traditional’ culture but a contemporary Samoan one” ( Lee & Francis, 2009. p. 8).

With society moving faster with every generation, demands on socail cultural change increase.  Evident in the increase of social networking as a main form of communicaiton and relationship development, the emphasis of independance and the mentality to ‘keep up’ with expectations and changes.  For those of us that are ‘afakasi in transnational community the pressure to ‘define ourselves’ increases.  “The demand for legitimacy placed on minority peoples, in this case Samoans, does place extra demands on those who have multiple ethnicities who wish to claim their minority ancestry (Chambers 1994)” (Keddell. 2006. p. 8).

Social Changes Affect on Values

With the sincere attempts in our transnational communities to implement initiatives to preserve and encourage our parent cultures (ie: free language classes, festivals, student associations at tertiary institutes, fonos) do we marginalise those of ‘afakasi heritage if they are not ready to participate or lack the confidence in which to do so?  For example,

I remember finding out in my fourth year at varsity that there was a Samoan students association, but I felt I couldn’t join because I wasn’t a “real” Samoan … I had been stereotyped as being Maori … I couldn’t speak the language, you know, so I would always be “part Samoan”…(Keddell, E. 2006. p.8).

Is this true? Lets listen to the voice of ‘afakasi, through the medium of Creative Arts, for those that live and breathe it everyday.

Creative Arts becomes a canvas for words, stories and images.  Creative Arts is being used as one the popular mediums of communication for ‘afakasi conversations.


She is urban afakasi
Coating her English speaking tongue
With Samoan words
Picked up from the playground

Painting her fair skin
With sun rays
To gain a lighter shade of brown

Learning of Mau
From mother’s recollections
And a book bought off Trademe

Adorning herself
in a off the shoulder puletasi
And a coconut ring
With the letter G
From her Aunty

She is urban afakasi
Walking down the streets
Of inbetween
Feeling caged
And free
Urban afakasi
The next generation
The product of love
The product of progression

Rocking a lavalava and jandals
Through the mean city streets
Down to the diary
While holding the ability
To navigate between multiple identities

Some desire or scorn her
With her white siva hands
Her South Auckland accent
Her attitude of
“take it ……or leave it”

Unashamed of her taro thighs
white skin her disguise
Pacific ancestory causing a surprise
Their eyes the demise
To the lies
But she will rise
She will rise


A crossbred flower
Of teuila and carnation
She got some kind of beauty
But you just can’t name it

Look left
                Look right
with every move made
doesn’t quite fit
but knows
she knows how to behave

No taulima on arms
She bears it on her heart
Never knows where her malaga will end
But she knows where it starts

She holds an affiliation
To tagipalau
And the infections dub beats
Of Aotearoa sounds


An unclassic case of what you see
Ain’t what you get
Need to double look
And second guess her next step
By step
Shapeshifter, shifting spaces
Bridging gaps of then and now
Reflecting back on
Who, when and how

So how can she collect
The sand dusted from mothers island feet
Scarttered in these
Long white cloud streets

Answers sort
Questions answered
The freedom allowed
To carve new spaces
Of identities faces
To reflect these places

Urban Afakasi
The next generation
The product of love
The product of progression

~ Grace T E Taylor

Pouliuli 23

I am no longer a part of you Samoa
The sun has set on my “half caste” blood
no longer yearn for you
You speak in rhyme and talk of
skin – no room for the “Afakasi”
I used to tell you this – I am Samoan
It is my birth right to claim my
Grandmother’s Samoan Heart
Call Tula’ele home
recalling cousins crowded around
The breadfruit tree to see
The white boy
The white skin
The Afakasi – Shouting palagi palagi palagi
I have no inheritance the land is gone
My grandmother is gone
no feet to place in the soil of my Aiga
It is gone – so I am walking
I tell my children
they do not know who you are & where you come from
calling to peers to
see me hear me perform with me accept me
crying to ancestors
why did you forsake me in this skin?
“Half caste” is lost is sinking is nothing
Afakasi is phony pepelo mule – liar!
Has no claim to title no place to plant
No fale to burn – no land to yearn
I do not belong to this world
I am Pouliuli a pepelo I am Ulupe
made to wear it oh so well,
so let me ask you this…
What is Palagi? What is Afakasi?

1/2 Kast – PNC


‘Afakasi Is – Selina Tusitala Marsh

Afakasi is
chrysalis is
spiral is
a changing on the tip of your finger is
a shadow is
seashores underneath tips of toes is
eclipse is
ying is
yang is
a monk whose walking feet pray is
knuckle to knuckle is
nashi is
blood bound over time and a coral reef is
lack is
part is
half is
incomplete is
insecure is
chameleon is
a tear on a twig is
a row of diamonds on green is
a beat and a wing is
a wet and a slide is
a take to the air is
monarch is


I Am – Tarah AhKiau (Spoken Word Poet)



Afakasi – Inkling / Simone Kaho (Tongan / Palangi Poet)



Afakasi – Dan Taulapapa McMillian (Artist, Poet, Curator)

Selina Tusitala Marsh


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