Samoans are renowned for storytelling.
Our ability to paint vivid images with spoken words is second to none.
Nineteen year old, Rebecca Sang Yum from Siufaga , Falelatai, Vailima and Siumu, is a spoken word artist who wants to revive this gift with the younger generation.
Ms. Yum who has been away from Samoa since 2012, travelled back as a gift for her mother and to celebrate her 19th Birthday.
Rather than spending her down time hanging around; she has used this trip to reach out to the younger generation and expose them to the art form of spoken poetry.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Ms.Yum explained,“I formed a collective in Year 9 which was at McAuley High School. We’re all Pacific Island young women who love writing. We called it the A.S.O. collective, Adolescents Speaking Out. Every day we were adolescents speaking out.”
“In Year 12 we started doing workshops at our high school and just to get the culture of speaking into the schools.”
“We were all talking about our visions and they were all saying that they wanted to go to San Fran (San Francisco), Prague, but my heart has always been back in Samoa.”
“I wanted to come and teach our brothers and sisters here so they get up to date with the new English culture that’s going on.”
“We came here for my birthday but, I figured that I haven’t been here in so long I want to do something.”
Ms. Yum reached out to St. Mary’s College, which is a sister school to McAuley, who enthusiastically welcomed the idea of hosting a spoken word workshop.
“I went to St. Mary’s College to see if they had a space and a time for me so I went for it.”
“I had two classes - Year 12 and Year 10 , and at first they were a bit shy.”
“They’re very talented and very smart. They already know that they have things in their minds and things they want to share.”
“For me, everything that was difficult, I wrote. Poetry is a form of expression and I want them to understand them.”
“In our culture, fa’aaloalo ( respect) is a key word and sometimes you’re told to keep quiet. I think, in this day and age, I think it’s more beneficial for our younger generation to start opening up."
“Poetry is a bridging gap. Sometimes it’s not easy to explain, so they can just take time out to
express and explain.”
Ms. Yum envisions setting up a National Poetry Slam competition in Samoa featuring artists throughout Samoa.
A poetry slam is a competition at which performance artists read or recite original work.
“What I want to do and what I want to work on is creating the first Poetry Slam for Samoa. So that’s my goal. I want to see how the students respond to this different art form. And it’s something that they can try out.”
“I want to open up the opportunities for the kids in Samoa so they know how good the opportunities are here.”
“It’s important to hear what adolescents have to say since they’re going to be the ones taking care of our world.”
Ms. Yum is currently enrolled in Auckland University studying Commerce. Once she finishes her studies, she wants to come back and turn her dream into a reality.
“What I’m going to take back with me when I go back, is how necessary it is to speak with our students in our home countries about how important it is to give them safe space so they feel like people want to hear what they have to say.”
“I want to expand. The next time I come, I want them to be familiar with it and we can build and get a national Slam going on.
When she wasn’t in the classroom, Ms. Yum and her mom delivered dozens of toys to the children at Moto’otua Hospital.
Her mum, Lealaitagomoa Tulip said, “The kids out there , they have heaps of stuff, think of our kids here. We seen little babies today and we given away toys and they were happy. I had tears of happiness. Share the love, share the blessings. No matter how small they are, share the blessings.”