Friday, June 1, 2012

Black Saturday, hiding in the bush and finally, Independence!

When Nelson was exiled the first time, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III took lead of the Mau Movement and on 28 December 1928, he paid for Samoa's freedom with his life. 

Mau Parade on Black Saturday
(Source: National Library of NZ)
On what is now known as 'Black Saturday', the Mau had gathered to celebrate the return of two of their exiles, when New Zealand police opened fire on the crowd. Tupua Tamasese and 7 others were fatally shot by New Zealand police. Three more people died later and scores of people, including women and children, were wounded. A Kiwi policeman was even clubbed to death in the fracas. 

Tamasese lying in state at Vaimoso
(Source: National Library of NZ)
So, in January 1930, to try and quell the 'rebellion', the frustrated New Zealand administration declared the Mau to be illegal. In an attempt to disband the members, the white stripes were literally torn from the purple lavalava of the Mau uniform and members who refused were arrested and imprisoned. 

Sailors removing the white band from the Mau lavalava.
Source: (National Library of NZ)

So the Samoan men did what they had always done when defeated in battle: around 1500 of the Mau men fled to the bush, to the mountains, to hide. 

60 Mau prisoners arrive from coast at dawn.
(Source: National Library of NZ)
When the Kiwis sent in marines to hunt the Samoan men down, they were unable to navigate the dense tropical bush, so instead they raided the villages that were secretly helping the men by providing them with food and shelter. The cowardly marines terrorised the villages at night and, it is reported, with raised bayonets, which I can imagine only infuriated the Samoan people even more.

Because their men were in hiding, the Samoan women took over the Mau activities, staging peaceful demonstrations and continuing to meet and stay organised. The Samoan people were desperate, more than ever, to reclaim the country that had been theirs since time immemorial.

Procession of Mau women taking over the public protests because their men were hiding in the forest from the NZ administration. (Source: National Library of NZ)

In 1935, after the pro-Samoan Labour Party won the New Zealand election, Samoa began its official slow march to Independence. By June 1936, the Mau had been restored as a legitimate political organisation but because of WWII and the Great Depression, and other political wrangles, it would not be until 1962 that Samoa truly belonged, once again, to the Samoans. 


As you can see, if you've been following my posts these last few weeks, independence did not come easily for Samoa. People were willing to challenge their family tieswilling to go to prison, willing to hide out in the mountains, willing to risk banishment and exile, and even paid with their lives all because they believed SAMOA MO SAMOA. 

So today, on the eve of Samoa's 50th Independence, I feel two overwhelming emotions: I'm proud and I'm humbled. 

I'm immensely proud that our people now rule themselves (even if I think they are making a royal mess of it sometimes), but I'm incredibly humbled by the stories of the Samoans that fought for the Independence we now enjoy. 

Malo Samoa!
of hard-won Independence!

Happy Independence Day!

The Samoan Flag: Red for courage,
Blue for Freedom and White for Purity
The stars on the flag represent the Southern Cross constellation. This can only be seen in the southern hemisphere which is why it appears on flags in that part of the world.

Samoan Flag cake: Four layers of dense, rich chocolate cake
filled with buttercream and covered in fondant.

1 comment: