Listen to a poem giving voices to the unknown subject of two 19th century photographs


Creator: Miriam Waters, Museum Remix participant


Am I your savage? Is that what you see? Though I hold no club, no machete in hand. No shield, or spear, or warrior clothes. Nothing to tell you I fight for my home. No top knot, no turban. No, you wouldn’t recognise if I was a warrior, unless you dressed me up in your crude costume, and told me to bear my teeth. But I’m no soldier and no savage neither. Am I your man? My hair is not short, perhaps we looked the same under the kilt I wore. But I’m not moustached, or bristling and stiff like your officers were when they stepped from the ship. 

pair of black and white photographs showing a Samoan person posed with hair up and down

My hair is cut long, I allow it to grow. A braid curls at my shoulder. A tendril at the vine, that at the other end of my head buds. A curling ginger flower, knotted tight against my skull. But how much richer is my hair? When I unloose it into spirals. Soft, that shine, reflecting a midday sun that doesn’t reach my eyes but glances off my skin. My still, untense muscles far from brutish are just like your own. I am relaxed, impassive I suppose. Though the skin I wear isn’t white. Even now, when you give me a voice my look remains fixed on the middle distance, knowing that you will still express me in English - the language of the conqueror. Who could not understand the Fa’afafine light in my stormcloud hair. I am Not Your Man.

This track is part of the Museum Remix: Unheard project.