Heritage & Monuments

Apia Village

Samoa / The Pacific

The Village of Apia still exists within the city with its own Matai (chiefly leaders).  Apia was built round a natural harbour, which became famous in 1889 when a typhoon was approaching and seven US, German and British ships refused to leave it, lest they lose face.  All but one British vessel were sunk.

28 December 1929 was the date of Black Saturday.  There had been civil unrest from Mau independence demonstrators, who paraded through Apia to welcome the return from exile of E.W. Gurr and A.G. Smyth (who had been deemed to stir up Mau risings).  The Administrator, Colonel Sir Stephen Allen (1882-1964), decided to clamp down and arrested one of their leaders.  Violent clashes ensued in which 11 Samoans and one policeman was killed – in front of the old Courthouse.  Amongst them was the independence leader and paramount chief, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III (1901-29) who, with two other chiefs, was trying to restore peace.  Before he died, he told his followers: ‘My blood has been spilt for Sãmoa.  I am proud to give it.  Do not dream of avenging it as it is spilt in maintaining peace. If I die, peace must be maintained at any price.’  This contrasted to the attitude of Commodore Blake, of the Marines, who described the Sãmoans as behaving like sulky children: ‘There is no alternative, therefore, but to treat him roughly … force is the only thing which will appeal to the Sãmoan …’  In 2002 the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, issued an apology for the wrongdoings of the then colonial administration. 

The old Courthouse stood in Apia until May 2020 when it was demolished, despite being on the World Monuments Watch. Built-in 1902 by the Germans, it was later an administrative centre.  It had historical significance because here, on 30 August 1914, the German flag was lowered and the British raised.   It was one of the last surviving colonial structures in the South Pacific.

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