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.
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…
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
One Samoana Throwback: First published Jan 4, 2009, this post explores a tradition of forgiveness like no other. It’s a fact of life: humans are attracted to drama… which makes me – and apparently, Samoans in general – oh so very human. I don’t remember when I first heard about the Samoan tradition of ‘ifoga’, … Continue reading Samoan Tradition: Ifoga
This guideline covers a few different situations. First, it’s good manners in any culture to use your initiative to correct things that are not right. For example, are the dishes piling up? Wash them. Is a log blocking somebody’s driveway? Move it. It’s common sense and basic human courtesy. We shouldn’t need to be asked … Continue reading Think about it: You don’t need to be told
I’ll be the first to admit it. I eat on my feet all the time. Hello, I’m a busy lady. I don’t always have time for a sit down meal, etc. and other excuses like that. Lucky for me, I’m too big now to get a bashing for such horrible manners… but I still try … Continue reading Eating and standing in a Samoan house? I dare you.
Another one of my most favourite Samoan jams is Afai Ua e Musu (I love the version by the Five Stars). It’s basically a guy telling a girl, “If you don’t want me, just tell me. I’m cool. I can hack it. Let’s just get this over with.” And then he quotes Samoan proverbs including … Continue reading Samoan Proverb about a Humble Snake
In our culture it’s really rude to have conversations with your elders if you’re standing while they’re seated. If you dare to be so inappropriate like that in a very traditional Samoan household, look out for flying saucers (followed by tea-cups, or spoons, etc.) aimed at your head. To show respect, you try to speak … Continue reading Samoan Etiquette – You sit down, too!
As the heart of the Pacific ocean, it makes sense that so many of Samoa’s alagaupu & muagagana (proverbs & idioms) use the imagery of fishing. Like this one: O le upega e fili i le po, ‘ae tatala i le ao Its literal translation: The fishing net is knotted (or braided) at night, but … Continue reading Samoan Proverb – Sorted like a fishing net in the morning