Fa’alupega is often the first building block of a Samoan lauga (speech). When addressing a gathering of people, it is custom for the speaker to acknowledge all the other matai in the room, to greet each of them not just by title name, but with an acknowledgement of their village and recitation of how their village’s titles fit together.

How is a budding matai supposed to know all that stuff about everybody’s village, you wonder?

You ask somebody, or you get yourself a fa’alupega book and then you memorize it.

Ever see the matai in your family walking around muttering to themselves? They’re probably just practicing their lauga skills, reciting the fa’alupega of different villages.

I recently found this fa’alupega book (pictured) while cleaning out a bookshelf at home. It’s going to be very useful on my journey to speak Samoan like a matai.

If you’re on the same journey as me, please leave a comment.

Let’s connect!

If you’re very new to the whole concept of matai and fa’alupega, I wrote this article (below) years ago, when I was first figuring out how all this works. I hope it helps you, too.


Fa’alupega Explained

The following article was first published in 2008.

Let’s start with a definition.

In a Master’s thesis from the University Canterbury, Lona Laneselota Siauane, describes fa’alupega as:

a universally recognized set of official and web host asp net greetings, it also provides insight to the political and social dynamics within a nu’u (village)

Basically, a fa’alupega is a salutation used to address representatives of a nu’u or family at a formal gathering.

This poetic greeting incorporates the names of major matai (chief) titles from this particular nu’u, in order of rank.

The intention behind using fa’alupega is to formally acknowledge the history and political structure that makes up a village’s unique identity.

Every nu’u will have its own set of acknowledgments, but the composition of all fa’alupega is pretty standard. To give you an idea of how it is put together, let’s draw a mental picture.

Let’s say that Arato village has four main matai titles, the highest of which is Superman. The other titles in this nu’u are Batman, Robin and John.

It is important to note at this point that matai titles fall under two categories: the ali’i and the tulafale.

The (usually) higher ranking ali’i is considered sacred and solemn, often referred to as the ‘sitting chief’. The tulafale, however, is the orator… the ‘talking chief’, who performs executive duties on behalf of the ali’i title he is connected to.

Back to Arato village. Let’s say that John is a tulafale title connected to the ali’i Superman. Likewise, Robin is the tulafale for Batman. The hierarchy of titles in this village would therefore be:

  • Superman (highest Ali’i title)
  • Batman (another Ali’i title) John (tulafale for Superman)
  • Robin (tulafale for Batman)

We can now begin compiling the fa’alupega for Arato village.

First let’s greet the village in general:

Tulouna Arato

The word ‘tulouna’ is a general greeting, but to address an ali’i title directly, we say ‘Afio mai lau afioga’. So the next couple lines in Arato village’s fa’alupega would be:

Afio mai lau afioga Superman
Afio mai lau afioga Batman

Then to greet all the tulafale of the village, we use ‘Susū mai lau susuga’, e.g.

Susū mai lau susuga John
Susū mai lau susuga Robin

And there you have it – the most ridiculously simplistic fa’alupega ever.

The real magic happens when you know a little something about the history of our made-up Arato village.

For example, let’s say back in the day Arato survived a huge flood. And, let’s say someone who held the title Batman was a war hero for the Tuiatua. And, let’s say all those who have held the John title have been highly respected orators in Samoa. The most widely accepted fa’alupega for Arato village now might be:

Tulouna oe Arato
Tulouna oe Legotoilevai
Afio mai lau afioga Superman
Afio mai lau afioga Batman, Tagata o le Tuiatua
Susū mai lau susuga John, le alo Faletolu
Susū mai lau susuga Robin

Our example here is still pretty basic. Our fa’asamoa, especially when it comes to matai titles and village politics, is extremely complex, and much of that will reflect in the fa’alupega of a nu’u.

In future articles on this topic, we’ll dissect a real fa’alupega and talk more about the discrepancies between different documented versions. We’ll also look at the settings where it is appropriate to use fa’alupega.

In the meantime, please leave a comment if you have any questions you’d like to see addressed.

Ma le fa’aaloalo lava.