O Le Sulu Samoa – (The Torch)
One of the Samoan measina held in the collections of Tamaki Paenga Hira’s research library is the mission magazine ‘O le Sulu Samoa’, published to highlight London Missionary Society activities and community news. Beginning in 1839, this magazine continues to be published today by the Ekalesia Fa’apotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa). The considerable run provides a rich resource for researchers, and a compelling narrative of Samoa’s historical journey.
A little background.
On August 24, 1830, John Williams, a minister with the Congregationalist London Missionary Society, landed at Sapapali’i village along the coast of Savaii, in search of Malietoa Vaiinupo, a paramount chief of Samoa. Upon meeting Malietoa at a large gathering in Sapapali'i, the LMS mission was accepted and grew rapidly throughout the Samoan Islands. The Church established itself at Maluapapa (now known as Malua), twenty kilometres west of Apia. Maluapapa quickly became the centre of Congregationalist activity for the Pacific, particularly after the establishment of Malua Theological College in 1844 by the Reverends George Turner and Charles Hardie.
By 1839 the Mission had started publishing ‘O le Sulu Samoa’ on their printing press at Malua. This printing press had been established with the express aim of publishing material in Samoan to aid the spread of the Gospel and conversion of the Samoan community to the Christianity of the Congregational Church.
Over the many years of publication, a wide range of material was translated into Samoan and published in the Sulu Samoa, including the stories of ‘Tusitala’ or Robert Louis Stevenson.
A few libraries across Australia and New Zealand have issues of ‘O le Sulu Samoa’, but no library has a complete run of the 106 years of publication. Tamaki Paenga Hira holds a run of issues from 1902 to 1919 and then a few issues donated by the Reverend Robert Challis, the beloved senior minister of the Pacific Island Congregational Church in Auckland, from the early 1950s.
By the 1900s, in the issues held at Tamaki Paenga Hira, each magazine includes local community news alongside news of events in the wider Pacific area. Births, deaths and marriages in colonial families are noted; families such as Ah Sue, Armstrong, Betham, Carruthers, Churchward, Conradt, Gladding, Hannemann, Harman, Holzhauzen, Krüger, Laban, Nelson, Patterson, Rasmussen, Riedel, Roberts, Schmidt, Skelton, Tattersall, Traub, von Tyszka, Wendt and Wuelfingen.
Credit: Paula Legel, Associate Curator Heritage Publications and Leone Samu, Associate Curator Documentary Heritage, Pacific