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Shevon Matai(March 2011)

In this podcast Shevon Matai from American Samoa talks about attending the human rights conference.

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This summary pertains to an eight-minute podcast recorded at Wellington Town Hall, where Shevon Matai, a delegate from American Samoa, was interviewed by Gareth Watkins on the 16th of March, 2011. The focus of the interview was Matai's participation in a human rights conference and the presentation of their research paper on the topic of Polari, a language with roots in the UK's gay community dating back to the 1600s.

Matai's paper explores the remarkable phenomenon of how Polari, despite its origins in the UK, shares morphological features with a homosexual language that independently developed in Samoa. The study reveals that, without direct interaction, these languages evolved in remarkably similar ways across the world. Matai gives examples of linguistic similarities, such as the use of backslang and the word "dolly," which both have counterparts in Samoan gay language. This linguistic mirroring is a focal point of Matai's work, emphasizing the global commonalities within homosexual communities despite geographical separation.

Matai delves into Polari's historical context, explaining how it served as a coded language that offered protection and secrecy to homosexuals, especially prior to the legalization of homosexual acts in the UK in the 1960s. Parallelly, Samoan homosexuals used their language to safeguard their private discussions, particularly those involving individuals with societal and political stature. By doing so, Matai highlights a common thread where marginalized groups had to resort to linguistic creativity to navigate a world that was not always accepting.

The interview progresses to discuss the contemporary status of Polari and similar languages. In American Samoa, elements of this language have permeated into common usage among youth, potentially threatening to displace traditional Samoan speech. Through the paper, Matai seeks to raise awareness among the new generation in order to preserve the language's heritage and true function without eroding the informal spoken language of Samoa. The fear expressed is that a genuine piece of cultural and communal identity could be lost in the process. Matai also points out that despite the association with the United States and the promise of equality and freedom, American Samoa, being a US territory in Polynesia, still experiences discrimination, mocking, and mistreatment analogous to that faced by individuals in independent Samoa.

Matai mentions the existence of support networks and organizations in American Samoa, such as an association for fa'afafine—individuals who identify with both male and female gender traits—highlighting their community work and partnerships with NGOs like the Red Cross. This interconnectedness strengthens not only the individuals within these groups but also their impact on broader social issues.

Lastly, projecting into the future, Matai expresses a desire that people in 30 years will recognize and appreciate their identity, akin to knowing their heart. Matai suggests that by understanding oneself fully, one can find an authentic place within their family, government, island, and the global community.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:16th March 2011
Interviewer:Gareth Watkins
Location:Wellington Town Hall, Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004195).