As I was learning about Samoan culture, I remember deciding that I wasn’t interested in gaining a taupou title (the highest ranking female role in a family/village). Instead I wanted to become a proper matai – which still isn’t common amongst women.
But then I did some research and a lot of observation… and I evaluated my lifestyle and attitudes towards family and village affairs… and then I had to finally admit to myself that I’m not cut out to be a matai. It’s not a role that I could wholeheartedly commit to, for number of reasons.
If you’re considering putting your name forward for a matai title, maybe have a think about what that would really mean to you.
Le Gagana Samoa = The Samoan Language
We refer to the Samoan way of life as ‘Fa’asamoa’, but we also use this word to talk about our Samoan language knowledge, as in… “My fa’asamoa has improved a lot since we moved to Samoa” or, “Her fa’asamoa is really good, even though she grew up in New Zealand.”
How’s your fa’asamoa?
This beginner-level quiz is part of the first Samoan language quiz to feature in our Notebook Samoana emails, except this one has answers!
In our more formal Samoan language, when someone accepts an offer of food or a meal, we refer to that as, “le taliga o le sua.” (Imperative: Tali le sua)
I only fully understood the use of the phrase when my mother shared a memory about my grandfather, from back in the day.
[If you invest in this Samoan Language coursebook by Galumalemana Afeleti Hunkin, a small percentage of your purchase will also help support One Samoana].
Happy Samoan Language Week!
To celebrate, I’m posting here something I shared a recent Notebook Samoana newsletter. I love that the number one request I get from our readers is, “Please help me learn our language!”
We’re working on it :).
In the meantime, other amazing Samoans have developed some great online tools for keeping the Samoan language alive. Check them out here.
How do you become a Samoan Matai?
The good news is, if you’re even a little bit Samoan I’m 99.9% sure you’re the suli (heir) to at least one matai title.
Once a title becomes available, any suli can petition for it.
He or she just has to have some support (it doesn’t hurt to have other matai or well respected elders arguing for you) and also, ideally, a track record of service to the family.
O le ala i le pule, o le tautua
..is a well-known Samoan proverb that means, “The path to leadership is service”.
You might find that your bid to become a matai is much better supported if your family can see how much you love and labour (and contribute financially to fa’alavelave *cough*) for them.
I’ve heard some stories about weddings back in the ancient, less Christian days of Samoa. Don’t quote me on this stuff, cause I can’t remember who told me these tales, but apparently…
True(ish?) Story Time
In the old days, a bride’s virginity was, of course, of paramount importance. (Nobody said anything about the groom’s virginity, but anyway…)
SO, on their wedding day, a special fale was designated for the couple to consummate their union. A section of this house was screened off with hanging fala (woven mats) and inside this makeshift room, the conjugal bedding featured pure white siapo (thinly pounded mulberry sheets).
After the official ceremonies of the day, the wedding couple was ushered behind the fala to, um, get to know each other, while their older relatives (usually female) kept watch on the other side of their flaxen curtains…
So Google Translate speaks Samoan now.
How amazing is that?
We make up such a small percentage of the world’s population, and so many of us are raised outside of Samoan-speaking communities, that we’re at risk of losing our basic language skills.
And then Google blesses us with this gift.
Today’s Samoa is founded on Christianity, so it’s very common for us to give our children Bible names. Because of our Samoan pronunciation, though, it’s not always clear to the western ear which Biblical characters our names refer to. And some of these names are so widely used in our culture that they’re just Samoan … Continue reading 45 Biblical names – for boys and girls – in the Samoan language
At long last, I’m finally back with Part 3 of this series of posts about the Samoan tattoo. If you haven’t already, please check out previous articles on this topic: The Truth about the Samoan Tattoo The Truth about the Samoan Tattoo – Part 2 Do I have to be Samoan to get a Samoan … Continue reading The Truth about the Samoan Tattoo (Tatau) – Part III
In the western world, complimenting someone on their appearance or accessories is a great way to strike up a conversation. It doesn’t always work like that for Samoans. I remember one time, I mentioned to a relative that her bag was pretty, and then when she tried to give it to me, I was like, … Continue reading Be careful when you praise Samoans