History Repeats as Daughter Wins Miss Samoa 2023-2024, Two Decades After Her Mother

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In an extraordinary turn of events in Samoa’s revered beauty pageant, history was crafted as Moemoana Safa’atoa Schwenke emerged as Miss Samoa 2023-2024—a full 26 years after her mother was bestowed with the same honour.

As the Teuila Festival celebrations came to an awe-inspiring culmination in Apia over the weekend, the 23-year-old Schwenke, born and raised in Samoa, yet also nurtured in New Zealand and Australia, seized the crown. These days, she dwells in Australia with her family.

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Accustomed to basking in the spotlight, Schwenke often graced stages performing various Pacific dances and siva, a traditional Samoan dance. Indeed, her parents were the visionaries behind the Matavai Pacific Cultural Arts centre, established in Sydney in 2013, where these diverse art forms were showcased.

One of her striking talents includes being a proficient siva afi (fire knife) dancer. Schwenke’s skill in this daring dance has made her a rare spectacle as one of the few female siva afi dancers globally.

Throughout the contest, she presented an eye-catching performance by twirling and tossing her nifo oti (a unique weapon akin to a knife with a hook) while performing siva afi and ailao. Her performance won many hearts that she claimed victory in several sections—siva Samoa, best sarong, best interview, an internet award and best puletasi, similar to the evening gown category in conventional pageants.

After receiving the honour, she emotionally expressed on social media her heartfelt desire to win the title since childhood. “Samoa, my beloved, serving you is my purpose,” she declared, pledging to devote herself to honour her ancestors and nurture future generations representing Samoa.

Schwenke, participating as Miss Samoan New South Wales, was a favourite contender throughout the pageant. The glorious moment when she was declared the winner was one of historical significance because her mother, Maryjane Moe McKibbin-Schwenke, was a former Miss Samoa conferred in 1997-1998. She also held the title of Miss South Pacific during that period.

McKibbin-Schwenke is renowned in the Samoan community for her portrayal of ‘Princess’ in the New Zealand film ‘Sione’s Wedding’ and her relentless promotion of Samoan and Pacific dance and culture through the Matavai Cultural Arts centre and across Australia’s communities.

Exultant joy permeated the atmosphere when Schwenke’s family, including her beaming mother, hit the stage dancing and celebrating as the new Miss Samoa was announced.

As part of her new responsibilities, Moemoana Schwenke will live in Samoa for a year, putting efforts into promoting the country as a sought-after tourist destination. Furthermore, she will vie for the crown in the Miss Pacific Islands 2024 pageant scheduled in the coming months.