Home Institution

Skidmore College

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Samoa: Pacific Islands Studies


Contemporary art is a means of creating and recreating the self, a means of self reflection and defining ones identity. Conceptual art that expresses personal ideas and emotions plays a small role in the arts of Samoa, however it does exist in the minds and galleries of a few individuals. The intention of this study is to examine the role that personal expression plays in Samoan society and the artwork created here. The attitudes and approaches to contemporary art was explored, in addition to the underlying causes of those perceptions.

The foundation of this paper evolved out of statements from several artists and art educators in Samoa during personal interviews. Observations from two children’s art classes in addition to consulting secondary resources complemented the information derived from the interviews.

Several obstacles were found to explain why the majority of the Samoan community does not feel comfortable with personal expression and why contemporary art is relatively limited. The identity of many Samoan people is founded in their role within their family rather than their individual personality, which is a primary factor contributing to the trends found in the way Samoans perceive and approach contemporary art. The exposure to new artistic styles through books, television, and periodicals is another factor which explains the current understanding of contemporary art in Samoa. The education system has begun to incorporate art classes into some of the schools, but most of them still lack diverse teaching methods and the resources to expose students to a variety of art forms. The need to generate a consistent salary to support one’s family is yet another reason for the current status of contemporary art in Samoa. There are several outstanding individuals with a more global outlook on art, such as artist and educator Momoe Von Reiche, who explains her understanding that “Art is encompassing, it comes from within, it is the appreciation of things around you” (Momoe Von Reiche. Interview. April 12, 2006). Individuals such as Momoe have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to a variety of cultural influences and been encouraged to explore their personal identity, moving contemporary art in Samoa forward through creating and teaching their perspectives to others.


Anthropology | Art Practice | Community Psychology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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