A traditional Samoan gift for the Department

The Department was honoured to receive a gift from one of our awardees who had travelled over 10,000 miles and 36 hours from Samoa to attend our March 2023 Award Ceremony. Fata Brian Kaio, Consul General of Samoa to American Samoa, successfully completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies and travelled to Oxford with his wife, Stephenie, and some family and friends to celebrate this achievement. 

Brain tells us that the va'a (boat) model or paopao 'pah-ow-pah-ow' (canoe), which is also called 'soatau', is a traditional carved handicraft from the Ifilele tree which is native to Samoa and other pacific island countries. A double hull va'a was used by Samoan's to discover the pacific islands using the traditional knowledge of celestial navigation passed down from ancestors. Sa (sacred) moa (center) is the origin of Samoan name which supports the belief that Polynesia was settled by Samoans. The paopao is still being used today for daily fishing to support families on subsistence living and often selling surplus catch for income. It was also used for sailing and carrying goods between nearby islands. The fishing line is made from 'sinnet' woven from coconut husk fibres and fish hooks are traditionally made from a pig's tooth.'

He tgoes on to say: 'Gifting the va'a to the Department is an appreciation and celebration of my journey from Samoa to Oxford which is worlds apart in terms of geography and culture yet it was seamlessly interconnected once our paths met. It was a journey at the height of the global pandemic and when the UK was the epicentre of Covid outbreak in Europe (October 2020) and the myriad of challenges which stemmed from it but it all ended successfully. As the Samoan phrase goes, E sosoo afa ma maninoa. There is always calm after the storm.'

The last Samoan that came to Oxford was in 1979, when a young Mr Feturi Elisaia (current High Commissioner of Samoa to Fiji and former Permanent Representative of Samoa to the UN/Ambassador to US for over 10 years) took up the Diplomatic Studies programme (formerly the Foreign Service Programme), a feat that was repeated 40 years later by Brian Kaio (now Consul General of Samoa to American Samoa since January 2022). 

The va'a is now on display in the Rewley House common room.

Pictured above from left to right: Tagaloa Faafouina Su'a (President of Rugby League Samoa), Stephenie Kaio, Brian Kaio, Professor Matthew Weait, Dr Alison Macdonald, Lauaki Fereti Tuilagi (Honorary Consul of Samoa to UK).

Published 1 June 2023