16 Jun 2015

'Samoan Heroes' book launched

From , 3:03 pm on 16 June 2015

A book about high achieving Samoans has been launched with the hope that it will inspire Pasifika youth to aim for greatness.

'Samoan Heroes' book by David Riley

'Samoan Heroes' book by David Riley Photo: Supplied

'Samoan Heroes' is a collection of stories which includes contemporary figures like Tana Umaga, David Tua, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa and neuroscientist Associate Professor Donna Rose Addis as well as historical figures, and myths and legends.

Leilani Momoisea was at the book launch at the Tupu Library in the Auckland suburb of Otara.

The author of 'Samoan Heroes', David Riley, says he wrote the book to provide Pasifika teenagers reading material about things that they're interested in, and can relate to from their own background.

He says while there's a lot written at a young child or university level, it's difficult to find much  for Pacific teenagers.  He says he hopes reading the book will inspire them to achieve great things in their own lives.

DAVID RILEY:  This will just encourage them, reading people like them, that look like them, same colour as them, same backgrounds as them, who are doing world class things. And they will come to see reading, for those who don't read much, they will come to see reading as fun and as something they can do well, if they find the right reading material.

David Riley is also a teacher at Tangaroa College, and a number of students were at the book launch to show him support.  Year 12 student Laryia Lomitusi says Mr Riley's writing is helping her, and others in her generation, better understand where she came from.

LARYIA LOMITUSI:  For some of us, we don't even know our ancestors and stuff. For him telling the story, he's a palagi man, but it's really good to see that our culture is appreciated nowadays, and helping us understand our ancestors and our roots and our legends.

Student Lisi Tuifua says while he knew about people like 'The Rock' being Samoan, he wasn't aware how many other famous Samoans there were.

LISI TUIFUA:  'Samoan Heroes', that caught my attention. I don't like books, but this book is just really good. Yeah, the title. It's the first time I get to read a book about my own country, and I feel proud about it.

Illustration from the book, 'Samoan Heroes' of Mafui'e, the keeper of fire.

Illustration from the book, 'Samoan Heroes' of Mafui'e, the keeper of fire. Photo: Michel Mulipola

The illustrator of the book, Michel Mulipola says as a New Zealand born Samoan, he grew up around Samoan culture within his family.  But he says there's a lot in the book that he didn't know, because Samoan history wasn't taught in schools.

MICHAEL MULIPOLA:  To have this kind of resource is a great thing because myself and kids, get to learn about our stories, you know. Our creation myths, the fire myths, we have our own. So working on this book allowed me the opportunity to not only visualise it and work on it, and draw pictures for it, but also to learn about it in the process. Like drawing Mafui'e, the God of Fire, it was a lot of fun for me to work on trying to visualise that. 

Pacific historian Damon Salesa, who was the first Pasifika person to win a Rhodes Scholarship, is featured in the book, and says it's important to have a range of stories about Pacific achievement.

DAMON SALESA:  It's great that we're successful in sport and creative arts, but the range of success that our Pacific people have in media and academics and politics, is a really nice thing to put before children.

Pacific Historian Damon Salesa

Pacific Historian Damon Salesa Photo: Supplied

Tongan student Sisilia Fakalata says she's been talking to Mr Riley to make sure his next book is about achievers from Tonga.

SISILIA FAKALATA:  I'm looking forward to his next book because I really do want to see that people of my culture can accomplish stuff that I can't even think of, or imagine. I want to be inspired, and that's what Sir is aiming to do.

David Riley's previous books include 'We Are The Rock', a collection of inspirational profiles of Niueans, and books about sports stars Sonny Bill Williams, Steven Adams and Benji Marshall.

Tangaroa College students Lisi Tuifua, Carterina Kareroa Tusini and Lino Abraham at the book launch of 'Samoan Heroes'.

Tangaroa College students Lisi Tuifua, Carterina Kareroa Tusini and Lino Abraham at the book launch of 'Samoan Heroes'. Photo: RNZI