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Sāmoan supporters. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sāmoan supporters. (Photo: Getty Images)

OPINIONSocietyNovember 20, 2022

In celebration, and defence, of Pacific joy

Sāmoan supporters. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sāmoan supporters. (Photo: Getty Images)

Toa Samoa’s incredible World Cup journey has sparked an outpouring of happiness and celebration – and yes, sometimes it’s been a little loud. Emmaline Matagi wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The red and blue flags have been everywhere this week. Draped over fences, wrapped around shoulders and sticking out of car windows like extra antennas, it’s been a nonstop celebration of Sāmoan pride. The reason: the Rugby League World Cup, and Sāmoa making it to this morning’s finals against all the odds. Last weekend Sāmoa beat home side England in a nail-biter-over-time beauty of game, sending them to finals, and Sāmoans across the globe took to the streets to celebrate. When I say “celebrate” I am talking 5am fireworks, cheeehooo’ing, toot tooting and waving flags out of any kind of moveable object they could find (trolleys, bins, cars, trucks, buses, trains, camels YES CAMELS). I have heard ‘685’ – the song named after Sāmoa’s area code that has become the team’s unofficial anthem – sung so many times this week that even I, a proud Fijian woman, am starting to memorise its lyrics.

Social media was so overrun with red and blue and gagana Sāmoa (Sāmoan language) that you could have thought they’d already won the cup. Ōtara and Māngere town centres last weekend were so alive with Sāmoan joy that you might have mistaken them for Apia. The laughter, the language, the sounds, the celebrations: it has truly been beautiful to witness.

Fans celebrate in Apia, Sāmoa. (Photo: Anric Sitanilei/RNZ)

Being a mother of Sāmoan children, my home has also been filled to the brim with cheeehooo’ing and Sāmoan joy. My oldest son has a car covered in flags and a ridiculously loud sound system that has been sharing some Sāmoan classics with the neighbourhood – Zipso’s ‘Fika Mai Le Pese’, Poetik’s ‘For My City’ and even the Sāmoan national anthem. So it came as no surprise this week when I noticed on the Facebook community page posts discussing “noise levels” and “respect”. We live in west Auckland, in a gentrified little suburb called Te Atatū Peninsula (Tat Norf if ya nasty), and for the most part it is pretty quiet, if you ignore the odd Celine Dion siren jam at 3am. In comparison to our mates out in Henderson or Ranui we are definitely on the quieter side. So I wasn’t surprised that people around here would be hōhā at the 5am fireworks and cheeehooo’ing.

But when is a good time for noise? Who gets to decide when celebrations are “too rowdy” – or what celebrations even count as “too rowdy”? Why are we so obsessed with complete silence at night? In Tāmaki this past week, the loudest suburbs with the most celebrations have been those that have a high density of Pacific people living within them. Saute Aukilagi e tū, parts of east and west Auckland, and parts of central and the Shore. Areas such as Ponsonby, Parnell, Epsom, Remuera, Mt Eden and Howick haven’t been as loud or as party-filled. The demographics of those areas reveal lots of different things: socio economic levels, high decile schools, gentrification… and just a small number of Pacific people. So it is really interesting to watch the reactions of people who aren’t used to living in communities like Pacific ones and what they consider respectable noise levels.

Toa Sāmoa fans in Auckland fly flags from their cars. (Photo: Finau Fonua/RNZ)

Now don’t get me wrong, my pregnant ass was not full of joy to hear fireworks before the sun rise. But you won’t catch me online complaining about people being disrespectful. I have seen some pretty outrageous celebrations after All Blacks matches in Mt Eden after 3am and never heard a peep about the noise or how disrespectful it is to party like that. Not just Mt Eden either – there have been some rowdy little get-togethers for the All Blacks here in our neighbourhood too but never have I seen Facebook posts about “respect” then.

But I digress. My point really is that it would be cool if we examined our own personal beliefs around noise and respect and where we learnt them from. It would be cool if we showed this level of joy for all Pacific and Indigenous sports teams when they make history. I mean the Tongans already have it covered when showing us how it’s done, those guys fill stadiums, win or lose, and then parade when they lose like they had won! It’s really choice to see this level of Pacific joy in the diaspora with so many so far from home and suffering through a cost of living crisis. But for real, if you see and hear people celebrating and you feel grumpy because it’s loud just think about all the times you yourself have been loud and annoying and take a deep breath and let it go. Because Sāmoa made history and whether you or I like it or not, it’s gonna be 685 ON YOUR SPEAKER 685 ON YOUR RADIO allllll weekend long!

Keep going!