Rubena Siilata Uelese

Rubena Siilata Uelese is of Samoan heritage: her mother from Solosolo, Upolu and her father from Neiafu, Savaii. Although born and raised in Sydney, Samoan was always spoken at home and therefore she speaks it fluently.

With a father who grew up in a village where four-part harmony in the home, family and church was the norm, the tradition carried through in Rubena’s home growing up with her siblings, especially on Sunday mornings before church. Music was something she pursued during times of schooling, both parents making sacrifices to enable her to attend performing arts schools and choral programmes both in the community and church.

Now with a degree in Nursing, Rubena continues to write, sing and perform as a means of self-expression. Being a part of the AustraNesia family of musical artists has helped her to hone and develop her natural skills even more, for which she is grateful. She looks forward to her musical journey ahead.

Coastline of Neiafu village on the southwestern corner of the island of Savai’i in Samoa

Samoa

There are hundreds of islands in Oceania scattered across the vast South Pacific. An interesting archipelago is the Samoan Islands, lying approximately mid-way between New Zealand in the southwest and Hawaii in the north of Polynesia.

Settled by sea-borne migrants approximately 1000 years before the Common Era, it has had a complex political history over the last centuries. Today there are two separate political entities: American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States of America; and the Independent State of Samoa, previously known as Western Samoa. However, they share longstanding cultural traits, Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way), and also a traditional form of governance, fa’amatai.

Historically the archipelago’s islands were known as the Navigator Islands due to the maritime skills of their sailors. European contact began in the eighteenth century with Dutch and French exploration but it was the British who established prolonged contact. In the 1830s Christian missionaries with the London Missionary Society arrived, along with traders, and profoundly altered or supplanted pre-colonial religious beliefs and socio-cultural and economic practices.

Germany, pursuing its colonial ambitions, became involved in the region in the mid-nineteenth century. Eventually, competition for regional supremacy between Germany, the United States and Britain lead to conflict and a protracted civil war between the various internal Samoan factions and their colonial supporters. At the end of hostilities in 1899, the Samoan Islands were divided up between the United States (eastern islands) and Germany (western islands). However, at the beginning of World War 1 New Zealand’s Allied troops seized the western islands bringing to an end German colonial rule. Samoa was then governed by New Zealand under a mandate until 1962 when Samoa gained independence from New Zealand’s colonial control.