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Gov. Togiola dedicates Wyland Whaling Wall #96, ‘Ai o le Tai’ Mural

(UTULEI) – Governor Togiola Tulafono today dedicated the Wyland Whaling Wall to the people of American Samoa and named the mural 'Ai o le Tai.'

In a ceremony at the Executive Office Building lawn this morning, Governor Togiola expressed his sincere thanks to environmental artist Wyland for his wonderful gift to American Samoa, and named it 'Ai o le Tai, which, according to the Governor, was "extracted from a very profound Samoan saying offered when one bids another best wishes, blessings or farewell: 'Ia saga'i ane 'ai o le tai' or may the blessings from the riches of the sea be yours always.

In expressing the gratitude of the people and government of American Samoa, Governor Togiola, after conferring with Paramount Chief Mauga Tasi Asuega,, Secretary of Samoan Affairs, bestowed the high chief title of "Tusiata o le Moana" – the painter of the deep blue sea.

First Lady Mary Ann Tulafono had the honors of cutting the dedication garland.

Included at the ceremony was the signing of the Reef Check Foundation International Declaration of Reef Rights by Governor Togiola and Wyland.

Reverend Ioane Evagalia of the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa in Utulei led the prayer service and offered blessings and remarks.

(See full text of Governor Togiola's dedication speech, remarks from Wyland and Rev. Evagalia, and declaration of reef rights, below)

Speech by Governor Togiola Tulafono
Dedication Ceremony of Wyland Whaling Wall #96
"Ai o le Tai"
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Executive Office Building lawn
Utulei, American Samoa

Today marks an historic day for American Samoa. We have come together to mark and celebrate some wonderful gifts bestowed upon the people of American Samoa, by the grace of our God.

God's will has guided and led to us a world renowned and gifted artist of the sea; a wonderfully beautiful person: Wyland himself, and his team. Thank you for believing that American Samoa deserves a great ocean mural.

We express our thanks and celebrate Wyland's philanthropy that gave us this work of art, without charging his professional talent or time; he has graciously donated all the copyrights and privileges to this work of art at no cost, for us to use its value and resources to raise funds that will help fund the Pacific Arts Festival, then later, the construction of a marine science center and laboratory in American Samoa.

We have gathered here today for the many gifts we have received as a people, and we dedicate this beautiful work of art specially created, crafted and painted for American Samoa, and for all who shall traverse this land, to see, experience and enjoy.

We celebrate the gift of sharing from this famous artist. Wyland has shared his talent, art and professionalism with our children, our teachers and our artists. And they in turn share their newfound knowledge and experience, and their new friend with other children as they interacted and collaborated in producing their very own wall of art every day this past week.

From artist to artist, we embraced this wonderful opportunity that allowed our local artisans to be part of this wall and to memorialize our own local talent on this work of art.

From artist to novice, I am grateful for the opportunity that permitted all 60 seconds for me to touch up the lines and spots of the triggerfish on the lower leftside of the mural. It is my humble contribution to this work of art by Wyland.

We are very thankful for the gift of providing our people the opportunity to experience the riches and the resources of the ocean that many, many of our people might never have had the chance to experience; an idea of the blessings that lie in our ocean.

Lastly, we celebrate with sincere thanks the gift of heightened awareness of the importance of preserving and conserving our ocean resources and our  environment. And we honor that important effort with the International Year of the Reef.

For these wonderful gifts, we are deeply grateful to our God for making it possible; and to our friend, Wyland, the Wyland Foundation, and the Wyland team, for making it happen and making it come to life.

Wyland, we are honored by your presence and your great talent, and that of your team. You worked hard and tirelessly in a short timeframe. The demonstration of your commitment, devotion and community spirit, your phenomenal talent, strong environmental ethics, beliefs and dedication to protecting marine ecosystems worldwide, are well known and greatly admired. We acknowledge your commitment with grateful hearts.

Mr. Wyland, let me say on behalf of our people and the American Samoa Government, "Fa'afetai, fa'afetai tele lava mai le ta'ele o matou fatu ma agaga." (It means thank you so very much, from the bottom of our hearts with a genuine Samoan spirit).
The gift you have bestowed upon us was not only the creation and completion of this mural, you have also spent countless hours with our children, the future of American Samoa - our youth; our local school art teachers and artists engaging and sharing your knowledge and talent with them each day this week. Again, thank you so much.

As the Governor of the Territory, I am committed to supporting environmental stewardship and marine conservation. I ask all that are here today to appreciate and assist in protecting our fragile ocean resources. This mural exhibits how beautiful the ocean and its rich resources can be when it is taken care of. It provides a visual representation of what we can do now in our lifetime to ensure this beautiful ocean space that surrounds us will be our future generation's pride.

We are people of the sea. The sea is our sustenance.

Our marine environment is important to fa'asamoa, the Samoan way of life. The ocean impacts our everyday life. We are cool during the day because of the loving nature of the ocean and its sea breeze. God has surely blessed American Samoa by putting her in the middle of this great ocean; away from the rest of the world which gives us a better chance to save our ocean life.
This year, American Samoa, along with the rest of the world, is celebrating the International Year of the Reef, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reef ecosystems. In July and August, when our brothers and sisters arrive for the Festival of Pacific Arts, we will be honored to do our part in sharing and promoting this very important mission.

On a personal note, I was recently certified to SCUBA dive, and participated in a marine research cruise aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship the Hi'ialakai. As a result of that trip, I can say that I am better aware of the natural riches we possess below the surface of our waters and better recognize the need to protect these underwater treasures.

Wyland, your murals around the world, are testament to the fact that one of the greatest tools in the effort to protect our planet is knowledge. And this mural will always give us closer knowledge of those resources. As we say in our native tongue: "Fa'atoetoe le muli o le ola" [To keep (for them) the remainder of the basket.]

Inherent in the wisdom of this Samoan saying is the caution that these resources are not infinite; we must protect what we have now for our future generations. This work of art is an inspiration to us all in American Samoa, to do our part in protecting our ocean resources.

In this spirit, I offer this challenge to all our local artists and art teachers to create another beautiful mural on the wall of our Feleti Barstow Public Library, and we also have a challenge to paint a mural on the east wall of the EOB. And we also offer the challenge to decorate as much of our landscape with beautiful works of art. Such beautiful murals provide a lasting message now and for future generations of American Samoans of the need to protect and preserve our invaluable and spectacular oceans, marine life, rainforest, water sources, streams and green surroundings.

I hope that all the young people who helped with this effort, and those gathered here this morning, recognize how vital the environment is to our way of life and that you continue to learn, to appreciate, and to protect our coral reefs and our environment.

Lastly, I want to invite you all here today to join me in our next endeavor as a community to galvanize resources to establish a territorial marine science center to promote marine research, academic education and public awareness. This mural along with a scientific research and educational institution will be a legacy to all that we leave behind.

Thank you again, Wyland.

Now, it is my high honor and extreme pleasure to dedicate this wall mural to the people of American Samoa, and I am privileged to give it a name consistent with its beauty and value: "Ai o le Tai – Executive Office Building Wall – Wyland Mural"

I have chosen this name extracted from a very profound Samoan saying offered when one bids another best wishes, blessings or farewell: "Ia saga'i ane 'ai o le tai." (May the blessings from the riches of the sea be yours always).

This wall and this mural shall always remind us of the blessings we receive from God through the abundant riches of the sea, our privilege to use and enjoy, and our duty to take care of them. Thus is our heritage. As such, we receive and use, we take care of it, and we pass it on in good order.

In the spirit of Samoan reciprocity of love, as in the saying – Taui le alofa i le alofa – or reward love with love, it is my proud honor to bestow upon you, Mr. Wyland, the high chief title of "Tusiata o le Moana" – the painter of the deep blue sea. May God grant you long life in your efforts to promote conservation through your gift as an environmental artist.

God bless Wyland and his team. Ia manuia ou faiva. Saga' i ane 'ai o le tai, ma ia ola pea lau taleni ma ia susu pea lau peni (May your talent and passion continue to prosper; may your paint brush stay moist; and may the riches of the sea be yours always).

God bless this work of art – 'Ai o le Tai. God bless the people of American Samoa. God bless America. Soifua.

Wyland Remarks at Dedication

Talofa. It is a great honor to be here with so many wonderful people. We have wanted to come to American Samoa for a long time. And this week, we came, we saw, we painted. It was that simple. There was so much support here in American Samoa that it really made my job easy. All I did was get up there on the wall and have some fun. If you came out this week, you know I was having so much fun with the children of American Samoa.

I have a kid's job. This is not a real job. I was told when I was growing up that being an artist is not a real job. Good. Because I don't want a real job. I want an adventure. And that's pretty much what I signed on to. I felt from the beginning that art could play an important role in conservation of clean water and healthy oceans.

And 27 years ago, I painted my first Whaling Wall in Laguna Beach, California. And I said 'I'm going to paint 100 of these around the world.' If you know me, I kind of do what I say. My parents put that in my mind. 'You can do anything, but if you say it, you need to do it.'

I met your great governor, and I mean great, in Washington DC at the International Year of the Reef Conference. He was sitting with the great people from NOAA and with leaders from around the world, including the president of Palau, Mr. Tommy Remengesau. And Governor Togiola said, 'Wyland, would you come to American Samoa and paint one of your murals to celebrate the International Year of the Reef?' I said I would because I looked in his eyes and I knew he was serious.

So, we're here to share because we get to see the beauty underwater and we understand that not everyone will have that opportunity. To be able to use art to take people to this pristine beauty that we have here, both above and below, is very important.

The water planet is a very small place. And even if we do great things here in American Samoa to protect the quality of water and stop polluting or over fishing, we can't stop climate change without a global effort.

What is really nice is I've been green and environmental for 30 years. But, I do it in a very gentle way. Art is very subliminal and I've always said when people see this beauty they will want to protect it.

It's great when we can get the kids involved. The greatest fun I have today, even from the very beginning, is sharing my art, the message and the inspiration with young people. I am not kidding when I say you have to see the 6 murals that were created this week by the children and students of American Samoa. They are the greatest kids that I've worked with, and I've painted with a million kids around the world and the 50 states. And you, American Samoa, have the finest young artists on the blue planet. I'm very serious.

I am very thankful for the teachers that came out to contribute to the wall and help with the kids. I told the kids, the teachers are the biggest heroes on the planet. We ought to pay the teachers what we pay the lawyers, and pay the lawyers what we pay the teachers then there wouldn't be so many problems.

So, I also had the opportunity to paint with the older kids, just like myself. And they were wonderful. What a great group of local artists. And I'm so inspired that they are going to continue this artwork throughout American Samoa. And please take it around the world because I'm going to retire and I need someone to take over.

Actually, artists never retire. My next goal is to do 100 monumental sculptures of all the great whale species and aquatic life, life size and larger than life, with water elements. There's that number again, Governor. 100. You think I can do it? I'm only 51, and I can make this happen. But, I hope to come back to American Samoa and do one of my giant sculptures one day.

From here, I have to paint four more walls to accomplish that goal of 100. The last wall will be in Beijing, China for the green Olympics. I'm the official artist for America for the green Olympics and I wanted to do something very important.

My last wall couldn't be about me. I want to paint with children from 204 United Nation and Olympic member countries and paint three miles of canvasses, or 204 canvasses. If all put together it will represent all the aquatic life and water habitats from every country. I think it is very exciting and we are calling it, "Hands Across the Ocean." The idea is that water connects all the people and all the countries of the world. In fact, the U.N. has proclaimed this decade the decade of water --2005 to 2015--  water for life. All of us know how critical water is and our effort to preserve it maybe one of the most important goals of the 21st century.

I am very proud to say that Governor Togiola is focused on the right idea. You have to be in front of these problems and issues. And the biggest impact we're going to have is with our children. When the kids come home and say, 'take care of the trash' – 'take care of the water' – 'take care of the animals in the sea' – we, parents, listen, right? While I don't have any kids, I've painted with over a million of them and I consider them my children.

It's a great honor to be in American Samoa and I can't thank enough all those who contributed to this wall. Team Wyland and I really appreciate that everyone here really looked us in the eye and treated us as part of the American Samoa family. And we feel like family.

Once I was painting a mural in Honolulu and a famous artist named Sokka came by and saw me painting a 20 story mural and asked, 'What are they paying you for this, Wyland? How much are you being paid?' I said, 'Nah, I'm doing his for free. I'm going to do 100 free murals as my gift to the world.' And he said, 'Oh, no, free cost more.' He's kind of right, but way wrong because giving back comes back a thousand fold.

I made a lot of good friends this week. We love American Samoa. We love the people and this is our gift to you. We love you guys. Thank you.

Remarks from Invocation
by Rev. Ioane Evagalia
Congregational Christian Church
of American Samoa - Utulei

From Genesis: "In the beginning God created heavens and earth, and the earth was formless and empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep; the spirit of God was hovering over the waters and God said: And God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry the ground appear.' And it was so. God called the dry ground 'land,' and the gathered waters he called 'seas.' And God said: 'Let the waters team with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.'

In my view of this mural, I find it very inspiring, full of pride and dignity. A lot of talent and much effort have been shown to bring out the beauty of God's creation. Therefore, children of God --people of American Samoa -- should take pride in our surroundings by fulfilling our duties to protect the ocean and its creatures. We must respect God and His creation of our land and our seas. Show your love and respect for God by taking care of the environment. Protect the land and the sea here in this place we call home, now and, especially, for our future generations.

Governor Togiola's Remarks
at Signing of Declaration of Reef Rights

"In honor of the International Year of the Reef, the Reef Check Foundation has created this declaration of reef rights to highlight the high value of coral reefs and to encourage all people and governments to support coral reef conservation. They hope present this declaration along with a list of one million names to all coral reef country governments in January 2009 to persuade world leaders to support coral reefs. However, as a member of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and a participant of the recent NOAA research trip and a certified SCUBA diver, I know firsthand the importance of coral reefs locally, regionally and internationally. By signing this declaration, I hope to inspire other world leaders to join us in our conservation efforts to protect our coral reef ecosystems.

(The Reef Check Foundation is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of tropical coral reefs with teams in more than 80 countries. Reef Check works to create partnerships among community volunteers, government agencies, businesses, schools and other non-profit organizations in order protect and conserve coral reefs.)