Ma’a Tusi series – Fun learning for children

By Aruna Lolani ,

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Ma’a Tusi Hamilton sibling actors: Solomona, Uli and Nafanua.

Ma’a Tusi Hamilton sibling actors: Solomona, Uli and Nafanua. (Photo: Aruna Lolani)

A series of short films locally produced, called ‘Ma’a Tusi’, has been trialled on YouTube with excellent results.

With episodes in Samoan with English sub titles, the series is the work of Artist and Educator, Momoe Malietoa Von Reiche, Owner of Madd Gallery.

 Working together with her is a former pupil, Elizabeth Vanderburg, who is in charge of filming and editing. The series involves two to four minute scripts, narrating and music. 

In a month, they have managed to film and put the first series of five episodes to gauge feedback from viewers and to provide information to source funding to continue the series.

The first five episodes of Ma’a Tusi are already available on Youtube and they are called ‘O Mataua (Raindrops), Aisukulimi (Ice Cream), Pe’a fai sau ‘ula (To make your flower necklace), O le mata a Teli and O vae (Feet). The actors are Solomona, ‘Uli and Nafanua Hamilton as well as Archer Bear Von Reiche. 

Momoe said the aim is to make children pronounce Samoan properly while using new technology to promote learning that is fun.

“Children learn best when they are happy, and when they are, they are enjoying themselves,” she said.

“The essence is, we are capturing little moments in a child’s life – they’re subtle and meaningful. 

I set out a script but then they, (the child actors) run with it. It’s having that ability to chop and change.

“I look at the spontaneity of the child and let the children put it in a real way.”

“Filming outdoors in a local environment has an added bonus of providing memories which appeal to Samoans living overseas,” said Momoe.

“It’s those little snapshots of Samoa, like “oh, there’s a pua” or “look at the dog wandering past” (in the background of the film).   

Founded on Momoe’s strong educational background, her cultural and artistic expertise, her long-held beliefs that learning should be fun and children should be encouraged to express themselves freely, the episodes may appear at first deceptively simple. 

However educators have seen that there are so many teaching/learning opportunities within each episode while young viewers are enjoying adding the episodes to their favourite lists to replay.     

During Ma’a Tusi’s rehearsal.
During Ma’a Tusi’s rehearsal.

Elizabeth Vanderburg said the feedback has been positive with the target audience ranging from preschoolers through to adult language learners.

“Some mothers have commented that it’s a great resource for their little ones who enjoy watching them repeatedly which of course is one of the early stages of learning.

“YouTube is such a strong platform and viewers are thankful for the accent marks (fa’amãmãfa). 

“The most YouTube viewers are from Australia with New Zealand second, Samoa third and other countries such as the U.S.A.   

“We are hoping to add a new episode a week and we know there are a lot of options out there. 

“For instance, the New Zealand Early Childhood Education plan emphasizes the importance of the mother tongue being presented in the cultural context of where it’s from.” 

Ivapene Hamilton, the mother of three of the actors said she is grateful her children have had such a great grounding in the Samoan language from Samoa Primary School.

“The two youngest, ‘Uli and Nafanua especially, have had all their primary school subjects taught in Samoan up to Year 3 so they are particularly confident in writing reading and speaking.”

“Even when they are spelling words in Samoan out loud, they include the punctuation marks as part of the word,” she laughed.

Having attended after school art and language classes with their ‘Aunty Momoe’ where the emphasis is on having fun and gaining confidence, ‘hanging out’ to do the film episodes was just another fun class.

“Although Nafanua did inform me, ‘It’s acting and drama, mum’ when I talked about them helping out.”

For Ivapene, the delight is in capturing her children’s development at this stage of their lives and “anything else is a bonus”. 

That ‘anything else’ for young and old viewers learning Samoan around the world is a series of film clips which will provide a valuable resource at your fingertips. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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