Perpetuating values and traditions is an important part of keeping cultures thriving and strong. Every year since 1992 a festival that revolves around Samoan culture is conducted on the east side of Oahu at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The festival celebrates culture through learning and performance. There are a variety of exhibits of traditional customs, skills, songs and dances.
One of the major highlights of this festival is the Samoan Fire Knife Competition. It is a competition where young men display their knowledge about Samoan culture using their athleticism in their preparation for battle through the use of a Nifo Oti (Samoan War Club). Along with the use of clean burning fuel, the Nifo Oti is lit up on both ends and spun in a variety of moves to entice an audience.
In 2007, the competition expanded to include women and a duet category. Warriors from as young as 6 years old compete against one another. There are 3 main categories (juniors 6-11yrs, Intermediate 12-17yrs, & Open).
Last night we attended the Junior and Intermediate divisions of the World Fire knife Competition. It absolutely amazes me how these young warriors train to develop their craft and are able to perform in front of an audience. There were 9 contestants in the junior division and 13 contestants in the intermediate division (including 2 female competitors).
All competitors exhibited their skill using the fire knife. Each performer showcased their pride and love for their culture. It seemed to me that they had made a deep rooted connection with their culture and they were simply sharing that pride with the audience.
Fire knife dancing is by no means an easy task to complete. It takes great courage and skill to be able to successfully incorporate traditional movements while using a fire knife. The audience was in ‘awe’ while each performer commanded their attention. They each started their routines with one fire knife. After a set, they came back out to dance with 2 knifes. And a few performers even added an additional knife, making it even more risky and complicated. After each performance, the performer would take a bow to show respect and gratitude.
The winner of the junior division was a young man named Mose Lilo from Ewa Beach, Hawaii. And the winner of the intermediate division was a female competitor named Jeralee Galeai from Hauula, Hawaii. They were both unbelievable performers that portrayed their skill and love for their culture. Mose displayed the heart of a warrior. Jeralee graced the stage with elegance as her artful skill and technique blew everyone away.
The fire knife competition was an absolutely amazing experience. I love that culture is being perpetuated. Watching all these young men and women perform is magical. In my eyes, all the competitors were champions. They are the next generation that will continue to perpetuate their cultural values, beliefs and traditions. They are the future…