“unfolding the mat”
An ongoing blog by Marion Malena
In preparation for stories on the fala (mat), we sit & talk (nofo ma talanoa). Many cultures throughout Oceania pass down their stories of creation, lineage, and people of note through the art of oration and storytelling in various forms. This digital blog approaches storytelling and the Sāmoan methodology of talanoa through the modern practice of data collection; interviews, Q&A, and interactive dialogue.
On this fala, we pass down stories of pioneers, survivors, and unsung heroes of QTPI (Queer and Trans Pacific Islander) folx from across the Pasifika and diasporic communities. With the stories of these fierce individuals, we contribute to the tradition of talanoa that keeps the living fabric of our cultural identity as Tagata Pasifika, Pacific Islanders, QTPI alive. It is through the sharing of our and knowledge and lived experiences that our community will thrive as we expand our understanding of what it is and can mean to be Pasifika. Let us heed, learn, and remember these stories from the weaving mat.
The Samoan methodology of nofo & talanoa (sit & talk) on the fala (weaving mat), is still very much the same in Samoa today as it has always been in the past. Usually taking place after a long day’s work, an event, or in the evening while relaxing at home. The mat is unfolded on to the floor, and you are either sitting or lying down, but I prefer the latter; then we bond and converse.
The talanoa (talk) part starts off with little things like “how was your day?” to village gossips and stress-inducing family affairs. Then the talk usually goes deeper into historical events that took place, to a person who was the first to do this and that, and even to what the future might hold for us. By the end of these story-telling sessions you depart having learned something you did not know prior to.
This act of community and storytelling is how many of our Pacific history and knowledge has been passed down through time, with oral interactions like the one explained above. Living away from our island upbringing, a fala is rarely used unless you are at a cultural affair. My girlfriends and I have what we call “scones & coffee”, where we gather at a friend’s living room or garage and enjoy a cup of coffee and baked scones, and we nofo and talanoa. The practice is very much the same as we have had to adjust and adapt to our diasporic and modern surroundings and living situations. With the ever-advancing world of technology, we now have an avenue where we are able to celebrate these stories from the fala (weaving mat) that hope to inspire and/or change someone’s life and understanding of our culture and diverse identities.
Our blog is unique and different because it tells the stories of LGBTQ folks from across the Pasefika that rarely ever gets told; if and when they were, it was usually told by persons other than those in our community and in a way that exploits our lives and experiences. My hope with this blog is to help our people tell their stories with utmost dignity and respect.