Home is Transient and Fluid by Dr. Anne-Marie Tupuola-Plunkett
by Anne-Marie Tupuola-Plunkett on
“The Samoan connection in times of adversity”
Dr Anne-Marie Tupuola-Plunkett
When I was invited to share a brief overview of the interviews I had conducted for the ‘Rethinking Home: Climate Change in New York and Samoa’ Museum Connect Project I chose to highlight the strong ties and connections people have to Samoa, despite their diverse experiences with the Samoan culture and peoples.
It is at times of adversity that the strong connections between the Samoa diaspora and local Samoans become more apparent. The voices of the following interviewees illustrate the global assistance spiritually, physically, psychologically and economically from individuals and communities that identify with Samoa in some form.
The first interviewee, Yuki Kihara, is a female artist who was raised between Samoa, Jakarta and Osaka, was educated in a boarding school in Wellington and has been living in New Zealand/Aotearoa ever since.
When asked about home she says: “Home is where my heart feels settled and that’s Samoa. In Samoa in our family home is where I feel grounded being with my family especially when I travel actively for work.”
Her response to hurricanes and storms illustrates her strong commitment to her family and to Samoa, irrespective of where she lives. She states:
“When…C[yc]lone Evan took place in 2012 I was away from Samoa so I was constantly stressed out wondering whether my family in Samoa was ok. During the aftermath of Evan my mum would burst into tears over the phone and I would feel helpless. I remember …just after cyclone Evan I went to the Post shop to send money… and there were several Samoan people queuing up…I knew we were all there for the same reason.”
The second interviewee, Jesus Puerto, is a male of African, Native Cuban and European roots born and raised in Tampa, Florida… [He]… lived in Samoa…where [he] worked with the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity and the United Nations. He currently resides in Waianae, Hawaii.
When asked about home and the communities important to him he says: “Home is important though not in one place …Satuimalufilufi, Samoa is important to me because I was adopted by several families there and feel deeply connected to them and continuously desire to visit and spend time with them.”
When storms have affected communities that he loves, he says:
“I… recall storms going through… Samoa while I was living elsewhere and being concerned for my family and friends’ safety. [Regardless of the devastation] family in Samoa immediately begin recycling materials and use for rebuilding and go to the farms and replant or tend crops as needed. Storms bring people together to rebuild…and communities are clearly strengthened.”
This third and final interviewee, Henry Tamasese, was born and raised in Samoa and has “spent most of [his] life on the island of Upolu and traveled overseas for only short periods of time, the longest being to attend college in the US.” In his words, “home is synonymous with family or village… It is sanctuary, it is safety, it is refuge, it is history, it is duty and most importantly it is [a] place made of love and affection.”
With firsthand recollections of the storms in Samoa he says: “it is a nerve wracking and anxiety filled experience… [However] aside from social and economic costs, our experience with natural disasters has emphasized the need for our communities to be resilient as well as to help each other…”
By sharing diverse yet similar ties to Samoa, the Samoan diaspora share the responsibility and commitment to stand up about climate change and Samoa on a global platform as well as to restore Samoa with integrity.
Home is Transient (My personal reflection)
When I was asked to bring something that reflected my connection, interpretation and perception of home I chose to bringmy ula sisi (shell necklace) that was given to me by my uncle when I first visited his home in Samoa. This ula is a poignant reminder not only of my ancestry but also of my transient lifestyle and the fluidity of my different homes (New Zealand, Ireland, England and the USA). The different shapes, curves and shades of color reflect my diverse voyages, homelands, experiences and memories. This ula, flexible and continuous, is also symbolic of the spiritual, holistic and fluid connections I have to home and a reminder that, despite the diversities and adversities that I face, these are what are integral to who I am wherever I go. To me home is not always about the materials that build it but rather the spirit with which it stands and represents, for regardless of the storms that it weathers, it is these intangible and inherent facets of home that for me remain intact.
This passage was shared at the story party, AMNH, May 2014.
 Dr Anne-Marie Tupuola-Plunkett is of Samoan heritage currently residing in New York. She is an Independent Scholar and International Consultant specializing in human development, adolescent development and diasporic identities.
 The interviewees gave consent to use their real names for the purpose of this presentation.
 In the aftermath of Cyclone Evan, this artist shot a photographic series in the island of Upolu entitled: ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? See: http://www.milfordgalleries.co.nz/dunedin/exhibition/328-Shigeyuki-Kihara-Where-do-we-come-from-What-are-we-Where-are-we-going-2013
 Personal reflection of Dr AM Tupuola-Plunkett.
Rethinking Home: Climate Change in New York and Samoa was supported by Museum Connect, a grant program of the American Alliance of Museums made possible by the U.S Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Museums Connect grant program strengthens connections and cultural understanding between people in the United States and abroad through innovative year-long projects facilitated by museums.