Stories hit the head as well as the heart

Speech on behalf of Judges 

for the 2017 Samoa Observer 

Tusitala Short Story Competition   

by Silafau Professor Sina Va’ai 

Professor of English, 

Faculty of Arts, 


Sina Vaai

Sina Vaai

Talofa and Pacific greetings to you all.

‘Reverend’ Mata’afa Keni Lesa, Your Excellencies, Ambassador of the Peoples’ Republic of China, Wang Xuefeng and the New Zealand High Commissioner and your good ladies, Savea Sano Malifa and Muliagatele Jean Malifa of the Samoa Observer , sponsors, short story writers, family, friends, ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed a great honour and privilege to have been invited to speak on behalf of the judges of the 2017 Regional Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition.

Associate Professor, Selina Tusitala Marsh of Auckland University and the 2017 – 2019 New Zealand Poet Laureate, one of the other judges of this year’s competition, commented that the entries presented “a fabulous and varied array of stories, each in different stages of development. Some required more proof reading than others…others deserved fuller development and seems to have only scratched the surface of their possibility. But all were a pleasure to read.”

In relation to the task of judging the many narratives, she added that “Judging is always a difficult and subjective process.”

I would like to heartily endorse these statements as well as add our collective congratulations to all who took the time and had the courage and perseverance to enter compositions this year.

For those of us who facilitate the teaching of  language and writing skills, who champion literacy in the Education Sector as well as for all of us here tonight who love the word, love reading and the worlds of imagination, connections and creativity they allow us to enter, this short story competition and others like it in Samoa provide the impetus for creativity to flourish and the publications  that derive from them, to add value to the corpus of Pacific Literatures, part of the archive of post-colonial literary representations.

The prize winning stories and the top seven of each of the three categories destined for publication in the 2017 collection  were often exceptional, well-crafted narratives addressing local, regional and global concerns highlighted by contemporary communities as demanding urgent attention: in particular severe weather events connected to climate change and a sustainable environment, poverty, challenges to gender and cultural identities, end of life choices regarding treatment for family members afflicted with terminal illnesses like cancer, also the haunting concerns of the world after – death  and spirituality as well as the stereotyping, oppression and abuse of women,  especially within the institution of marriage.

All of these stories engaged the reader’s intellect and emotions, they hit the head as well as the heart.

To conclude, I would like to thank the organisers, especially Ms. Marjorie Moore the Newspapers in Education Coordinator, the publishers and editors of the Samoa Observer , the other sponsors and in particular,  the short story writers for all their efforts to make this competition a success.

Also, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous, creative 2018!