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Sia Figiel

Sia Figiel
Sia Figiel Headshot
Born Sia Figiel
Apia, Samoa
Language English, Samoan
Ethnicity Samoan
Alma mater Whitworth College
Notable works Where We Once Belonged
Notable awards Commonwealth Writers' Prize

Sia Figiel (born 1967 Apia, Samoa) is a contemporary Samoan novelist, poet, and painter.[1]

Sia Figiel grew up amidst traditional Samoan singing and poetry, which heavily influenced her writing. Figiel's greatest influence and inspiration in her career is the Samoan novelist and poet, Albert Wendt.[2] Her formal schooling was conducted in Samoa and New Zealand where she also began a Bachelor of Arts, which was later completed at Whitworth College (United States). She has travelled in Europe and completed writers' residencies at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, and the University of Technology, Sydney. Unfortunately, Sia Figel lost both parents to complications with diabetes. She too was diagnosed with diabetes 13 years ago.[3]

Sia Figiel's poetry won the Polynesian Literary Competition in 1994 and Where We Once Belonged was awarded the 1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for fiction, South East Asia/South Pacific region.[4] Her works have been translated into French, German, Catalan, Danish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Portuguese.


  • Career highlights 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Novels and poetry 3
    • Where We Once Belonged 3.1
    • They Who Do Not Grieve 3.2
    • The Girl in the Moon Circle 3.3
    • To a Young Artist in Contemplation 3.4
  • List of works 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Career highlights

In 2000 Figiel performed her Oceanic poetry at the University of Hawaii's twenty-fifth annual Pacific Island Studies conference.[5] The performances of Figiel and Teresia Teaiwa were recorded at this conference and subsequently released in a joint production with Hawai'i Dub Machine records and 'Elepaio Press. The album is titled Terenesia.[6] Sia Figiel has also been a contributor to The Contemporary Pacific journal on multiple occasions, including publications in 1998 and 2010.[7][8]

Personal life

Sia Figiel's life has evidently been affected by diabetes in various ways. Her relatives before her had diabetes and related complications caused the death of both Figiel's mother and father. In 2003 Figiel was diagnosed with type two diabetes. At this time, due to extraneous social and cultural conditions of Samoan life, Figiel kept her Diabetes a secret. She felt it to be a sign of weakness and did not want that to shape her as a writer and a public figure. Due to family, friends, and loved ones dying from such complications, she finally felt that it was time to speak up about the disease.[9] In 2012, paralleled by a move to the United States, Figiel began to address her diabetes both publicly and personally making appearances at various conferences and university campuses. Since then, she has served as an advocate in the Pacific region by sharing her personal experiences to help win the battle in the fight against diabetes. Today, Figiel acts as a graven image for good health by targeting both those with diabetes and those who are making an effort to prevent it.[10] As a testament to her success, in 2014, she competed in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.[11] Figiel's inspirational story was also featured on CNN, where she discusses her struggle with food and explains how because she's from American Samoa, a place where food is such a major part of the culture, she had a hard time trying to manage her diabetes. But since moving to the U.S. in the state of Utah, she's lost 100 pounds. The article also draws upon how the high doses of insulin she had to take everyday rotted away her teeth causing her with serious dental complications. Not only did it leave her with major dental complications, but she was also left with very low blood sugar many times. Fortunately, her son always knew exactly what to do and how to help her, which according to Figiel, "had saved her life continuously during this time."[12] Today, Figiel is living and leading a healthy life, serving as a role model to helping to guide and inspire others to do the same.

Novels and poetry

Where We Once Belonged

Sia Figiel's Where We Once Belonged is a Samoan novel set in the fictitious village of Malaefou. It is focused around the titular character, Alofa (a name that literally means love in the Samoan language) and her various encounters with violence and sex.[13] In telling this story, Figiel writes with complex prose that are highly poetic and dream-like. Her writing style is emblematic of Su'ife-filoi; a Samoan form of story telling centered around the "quilt-like weaving of words".[14] Where We Once Belonged marks the first instance of a novel published in the united States that is written by a Samoan female.[15]

They Who Do Not Grieve

In her second novel, They Who Do Not Grieve, published in 2003 by Kaya Press, Figiel incorporates her poetic talents through the voices of three generations of women who descend from Samoa and New Zealand. Writing in a highly poetic medium, They Who Do Not Grieve tells the story of two twin sisters who introduce tattooing to Samoa. Through this themes of self-determination, femininity, and coming of age are addressed.

The Girl in the Moon Circle

The Girl in the Moon Circle is a collection of poetic works published in 1996 by the Institute of Pacific Studies. It depicts life in Samoan society from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl named Samoana. This semi-autobiographical collection illustrates the simplistic aspects of Samoan culture, along with the commonplace experiences of a young ten-year-old girl, such as school, friends, family, church and boy crushes.[16]

To a Young Artist in Contemplation

Figiel's To a Young Artist in Contemplation is a collection of poetry and prose published in 1998 by the Institute of Pacific Studies.[17]

List of works

  • Where We Once Belonged (New Zealand: Pasifika, 1996) ISBN 0-908597-27-4 Review
  • They Who do not Grieve (1999) ISBN 1-74051-010-0; Kaya Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-885030-33-7
Poetry & Stories
  • The Girl in the Moon Circle (1996) ISBN 2-7427-2372-2
  • To a Young Artist in Contemplation, Pacific Writing Forum, USP, 1998, ISBN 978-982-366-005-9 Excerpt
  • Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri, Robert Sullivan, eds. (2003). "Behind the Steel Bars; Songs of the Fat Brown Woman". Whetu moana: contemporary Polynesian poems in English. University of Hawaii Press.  
  • Huia Publishers, ed. (2006). "The Dancers". Niu Voices. Huia Publishers.  


  1. ^
  2. ^ 'Sia Figiel' "Samoan Bios" Retrieved on April 19, 2015.
  3. ^ Figiel, Sia. "Diabetes Took My Teeth but Not My Life", CNN, 21 February 2014. Retrieved on 03 April 2015.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Hereniko, Vilsoni. "Back to the Future: Decolonizing Pacific Studies", The Contemporary Pacific Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring 2013. Retrieved on 6 April 2015.
  6. ^ Figiel, Sia. "At 4:30 in the Morning", Woman Studies Quarterly: Woman Then and Now Vol. 30, No. 3/4, Fall-Winter 2002. Retrieved on 6 April 2015.
  7. ^ Figiel, Sia. "The Contemporary Pacific", The Contemporary Pacific Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1998. Retrieved on 6 April 2015.
  8. ^ Figiel, Sia. "The Contemporary Pacific", The Contemporary Pacific Vol. 22, No. 1 1998. Retrieved on 6 April 2015.
  9. ^ 'D Life Its Your Diabetes Lifel.' "Sia Figiel" Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  10. ^ 'Sia Figiel's Race to Beat Diabetes Leads to the Great Aloha Run.' "Tautalatala" Retrieved on April 19, 2015.
  11. ^ Wahowiak, Lindsay. "Sia Figiel's Super Effort", Diabetes Forecast: The Healthy Living Magazine March 2014. Retrieved on 19 April 2015.
  12. ^ 'Diabetes took my teeth but not my life' "Cable News Network" Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  13. ^ Ellis, Juniper. "Reviewed Work: Where We Once Belonged by Sia Figiel", World Literature Today Vol. 71, No. 4, Autumn 1997. Retrieved on 5 April 2015.
  14. ^ Galea'i, Jacinta. "A Novel In Prose and Poetry", University of Hawaii, May 2005. Retrieved on 5 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Sia Figiel", Kaya Press, 2015. Retrieved on 5 April 2015.
  16. ^ 'The Girl in the MoonCircle' Good Reads Retrieved on April 18, 2015.
  17. ^ 'To a young artist in contemplation' Good Reads Retrieved on April 19, 2015.

External links

  • A Conversation with Sia Figiel at Frigatezine
  • Between the steel bars poem at nzepc
  • They Who do not Grieve recording of excerpt
  • Songs of the fat brown woman poem
  • A Garland of Exile and Belonging Time Pacific
  • Bibliography
  • Sia Figiel profile at The South Project
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