25 May 2020

New comic series for Samoan youth

From Afternoons, 1:26 pm on 25 May 2020

Samoan artist Michel Mulipola has created a new comic series to coincide with the start of Samoan language week.

O Le Aiga Sāmoa was created with Nafanua Communication & Culture, a Samoan language programme for adults.

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Photo: Michel Mulipola

The comic strip revolves around a family, in particular through the eyes of Mataio, a young boy who is learning about Samoan language and culture.

Mulipola who grew up in Mangare, Auckland, is an artist, professional wrestler and pro-gamer. The family he has created is an amalgam of many people he knows in his community.

“In terms of creating the family, we definitely wanted a modern, contemporary family and I just used the people I know or have seen about as kind of like a basis to form this family.

“I wanted them to look trendy, I wanted them to have characteristics which people have seen in others so there’s that relatability,” Mulipola told Jesse Mulligan.

The idea was suggested to him by Nafanuatele Lafi Mafaufau who teaches Samoan at Nafanua Communication & Culture where Mulipola is a student.

“I really wanted people to feel like they knew these people and definitely used body language and facial expressions to really get that connection with the viewers.

“As I was drawing it I really wanted to show the medium, the powerful medium that is comics, and tried to use different angles and shots to show what is possible in comics.”

The first installment of the comics has had a positive response, he says.

“You kind of hope that what you’ve put into it people will get out of it and it’s reassuring and quite awesome to see so many comments from people relating to those specific events show cased in the comic.”

Nafanuatele Lafi Mafaufau has been teaching Samoan to Mulipola for some years.

“One of those things as a New Zealand born Samoan I’ve always been very proud to be Samoan, call myself Samoan, but my lack of understanding in terms of the language and so on and the cultural customs always felt like a weak spot for me and I’ll admit it I was a little ashamed, I felt like a plastic Samoan.

“That’s why these Nafanua communication and culture classes have been so amazing Nafanuatele, she not only teaches the language, but the customs and why things are done the way that they’re done.”

The comic includes details Samoan families in New Zealand will recognise, says Mulipola .

“The lino floor pattern, a very kind of seventies-style house.

“The family is a combination of different kinds of people who I know, or I’ve come across in my life, that really symbolise a modern Samoan family.”

Just as there is an upsurge in learning te reo, Mulipola says the same is true for Samoan people.

“There’s a groundswell of like decolonisation of your mind.

“You know what? I think it’s about time I should learn more about who I am, about my people and my stories.”