la is sun
sami is ocean
langi is sky
Manuia is morning
timu is rain
one morning, the rain stopped, the sky cleared and the sun came out over the ocean.
What to say about Reggie Meredith
....Siapo artist (ancestral Samoan bark cloth art), performer, dancer, singer, fine arts teacher, visual artist...
her bio is too short to encompass the breadth of who she is, but it's a start:
Reggie Meredith is a Professor of Arts, at American Samoa Community College and also a fourth generation Siapo maker.
She has traveled the globe promoting the art of Siapo and has been a guiding force to keep the art alive.
She lives in Tutuila, Amerika Samoa.
More about Siapo here
For inquiries about her work, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Connecting with her is one of the truest gifts of my time in Amerika Samoa.
SIAPOS by Reggie Meredith
It's fitting I spend my last day in Amerika Samoa with her, in her studio, listening, sharing,
collaborating on helping her develop a performance she is creating on embodying siapo...
What to say about deep rivers...
What to say about the deep rivers of art and performance, story and song that run in her..
best to show you her pounding the bark of the u'a, the paper mulberry tree
best to share a short audio of her performance text
(I tell her that I am dreaming of her performing this as a longer solo play - along with
The Good Manners of Colonized Subjects
as part of a women's solo festival I want to curate in the future:
the voices of indigenous women
of art, fear, colonization liberation
The dream is to do it next year,,,
I see it, she says, and I too see it)
best to share a poem about her....
... and the Sunday I also spent with her and her husband Su'a, a master tattoo artist and their friends.
we shared toana'i the Sunday afternoon lunch.
That day, Reggie performed excerpts of another short performance she had done inspired by the origins of tattoo,
the first sight of the Samoans,
That day, I began to hear the story of so many origins.
All this inspired the poem....
and finally, best to share an interview with Reggie...
about connections, creativity and what matters to her now, here....
(in the interview, we reference how we met last year, when I shared excerpts from The Good Manners at American Samoa Community College
Reggie wrote a moving response to seeing it)
this is a beautiful record of my last day, this time, this trip, in Amerika Samoa.
in my voice, I hear the blessings of faraway being close,
of following what calls,
of connections of heart and art, in time and out of time, and
how much it matters to cultivate and celebrate the story only you can tell,
how at peace I am when I spend time with kindred spirits who feel the fullness of their story
and live it, sing it, dance it....
this, to me, is revolution,
one dance at a time
together we create a network of resonance and healing
faafetai tele lava, thank you very much to Amerika samoa.
I am grateful.
I am grateful.
Reggie's art class and Kuki's speech class and special guest Tisa....
everyime I perform, mera nam, my name, it feels different.
I heard my voice echo today in a different way - -
One by one, everyone came up and spoke the story of their names...
short prose and deep journeys inwards...
A COLLECTIVE NAMING SONG
from my great great grandmother
who loved the smell of lily
it didn't suit me
so I changed it
trying to live up to
water of life
can be miserable
I might as well live with it and enjoy
never scared of anything
as in archangel
I am not the same
runs deep in my family
like the roots of the coconut tree
A bit surreal to hear voices saying “colonization” just as the car drops me off on the lawn outside classroom A-1 of
Pacific Horizons School.
It’s afternoon, The rain has stopped for a spell.
In the green humid air, voices fade in and out. As I enter the classroom, I see Mary Bordonaro,
teacher of the 7th grade creative writing class and her students discussing my work,
with images and poems from my website projected onto a screen.
…everyone should feel so welcomed!!! .
A lovely afternoon of laughter, sharing and writing, drawing on Mahmoud Darwish’s “I come from there” poem and
my “mera nam” choreopoem from the Good Manners which I performed for them.
Many of the students shared hand written pages as I left - folded and placed into my palm...I treasure them.
I was also really blown away by the beautiful reception and the depth and nuance of the writing,,,selections below.
In response to the opening of The Good Manners….they wrote
The Hand movements moved through the wind
telling me a story, a vision
through the language of Dance
I tasted the whiskey that your Uncle drank. I saw the Land of India. Becoming free.
I smelled the cold dry musky wood pine air.
And in the church I smelled the smoky incense of the high priest.
I was amazed, mesmerized…
I smelled a scent of….unexplainable feelings.
Never have I ever…
As I dip my feet in water, I smell the scent of water
the feeling of cool water
the feeling of being calm
I come from there
the there that is dry
the there that is long and flat
the there that has roaring red mountains
And that there?
is there place I would like to be
the place of history at its finest or at its worst
the place littered with walk ways and heat
the place I was not born but the place I would rather be
I come from a place
with wonderful trees
with a small little park
and birds that will sing
it’s a place full of love
where your heart can’t be sealed
I come from a place known as
It’s filled with adults and filled with kids
I love it because “home is where the heart is.”
I come from there.
I was born
unlike any other child. But my birth
mother gave birth to me there. A place of
disbelief, false, a place where I was left to
die. A place where I found a new home
in the arms of my newfound mother, she said
‘you come from somewhere special.’
I come from there
a beautiful country called China
there are 56 nationalities there
and I’m one of them
over there it’s noisy in the morning
over there, it’s noisy at night
I don’t like quiet places
I love my country
I come from there and I get flashbacks
flashbacks to my childhood
it was dark and gloomy
yet it was the happiest time of my life
I come from there
where the horses run and the dogs bark,
where the leaves fall and the ice melts.
I come from there where the sun shines and the flowers bloom.
I come from there
tall buildings and nice patterns
wooden and stone houses
clean glass and a farm
plants and animals
the taste of sweetness
and a relaxing feeling
I come from there
a place with my family
I come from there,
a place I call home, where peace is what I see, where is love is what I feel, I come from Fiji
I come from there, a small country over the ocean where beauty is in our name, where battle cry is in our blood and humans we once used to eat. I come from there an island called Fiji.
I come from China, a place where flowers grow, and happiness everywhere
with people spreading joy
I come from there
An island. That is warm. Humid and bright. With hundreds of birds that fly across the salty bay.
Where the beaches have many different colored sand.
Where the animals roam freely around the green, rainy forest.
I come from there. Where you can even smell the rain.
I come from there. Where at night the wind is clean fresh and cold. Looking up with thousands and more stars you can count.
And where the bats fly around the night sky.
And yes, I come from there.
Thank you, Shebana, for inspiring me to write, listen and learn
American Samoa, January 21, 2020
Today in ASCC,
we explored land and feeling,
textures of living on island,
traces of colonization
The students shared skits in sound, song, story, dance, feeling.
Thanks to the students for such open hearted sharing and Kuki for inviting me to facilitate the creativity writing sessions for the classes...
on the island we smell
freshly baked palo sami from the umu
the breadfruit roasted
and pungent smells of the starkist company…
we see the high tide waves
from the ocean
where the fautasi races start every year in the month April
thinking of colonization in samoa
we smell the smoke from the naval ships coming into the bay
we taste the tears of our ancestors
flowing in the rivers
those fighting to protect and keep our land
oil spilled and
captured by the American government
the guards walking by…
smell the salty ocean…
Every morning I wake to the blue sky
it gives me courage to move on
and then I hear my mother’s voice
get your ass ready for school
eating grandma’s pancakes
which she makes every morning
I get ready, thinking
oh my god I’m going to be late for class
and then the bus passes by
because I was smoking.
Everyone who comes to Pago Pago sooner or later (more likely sooner) hears about
Tisa and Tisa’s Barefoot Bar.
She's a formidable talent and presence.
Everyone hears about the umu they have at Tisa's on Wednesdays.
where meats and vegetables and fruits are slow cooked in hot stones covered with banana leaves, in the traditional way,
CandyMann, her partner, is originally from New Zealand. He came in his 20s to Samoa, to Sava'ii, to work on roads and drainage.
For an umu that is opened at around 7pm, he starts at around 6 am, he says making the fire to make the stones hot...and then later, putting all the meats and veggies and fruits. everything cooks sloooowly...
Barefoot, Tisa said to someone at dinner who asked about the name of the bar, because of that feeling of going barefoot as a child.
I believe she’s in her seventh decade
She grew up in the village where the bar is.
You don’t read that much about the ancient history of Samoa, Tisa says, because it’s still only spoken.
At funerals she says when the talking chiefs (who are the ones who talk for the paramount chiefs) speak about their relationship to the deceased, then you really hear the whole history again, all the relationships from time immemorial.
One morning we share a late breakfast
Beside the sea, on a day of rain and wind, I perform the opening of The good manners,,,, the part about dance being the first language, mera nam kya hai, what’s my name…
Performance is calling to her, she says, a way to manifest embody all her stories and especially her passion for the environment.
She speaks with pride of her warrior passion to keep the seas free of poachers, of the trouble it has caused, of her commitment to conserving the natural environment,
Everyone was going one way, she said pointing towards the sea and indicating civilization, things of the modern world,
"and I was going another way."
The Samoan spoken before the missionaries was peremptory, she said, full of commands.
But with the missionaries, it softened.
she speaks the difference.
The old language was soul talk.
Now that’s a title I say, Samoan Soul Talk.
Before I left, I asked her for a few words about this place in her life where she is now and she said:
(the sounds you hear in the background are the wind, the rain and the sea...)
On our last visit to Samoa in 2019, I remember we visited a tree with thousands of bats hanging upside down.
This time, CandyMann tells a story about bats and the tsunami of 2009.
He says there was a special small kind of cave bat and for some reason, before the wave hit, they flew in droves – in thousands - to underwater caves on the north side of the island. Seeking safety. But then the wave hit and not a trace of them has been seen since.
Something about the image of them, the underground caves, the force of water.
Maybe because here and there, I keep hearing stories that build on the tsunami, the scale of the loss of those bats feels operatic almost.
January is cyclone season.